2071.0.55.001 - Census of Population and Housing: Commuting to Work - More Stories from the Census, 2016  
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COMMUTING DISTANCE BY PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS

INTRODUCTION

Commuting distance data provides a measurement of the distance travelled between a person's Place of Usual Residence and Place of Work. There are many socio-economic factors that may influence the distance a person commutes to work. This article explores commuting distance data in association with some personal characteristics collected within the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. This has included analysis of commuting distance by age, sex, occupation, industry, income, education and mode of transport. The data presented in this article explores the distance people travel to work from their Place of Usual Residence.

More information on the methodology for calculating commuting distance can be found in the Explanatory Notes tab at the top of this page, while data cubes are available on the Downloads tab.


AGE


For the working age population (defined here as people aged between 20 to 69 years), commuting distance did not appear to vary greatly across Australia. People aged 30 to 39 years had the longest average commuting distance (16.6 km), closely followed by those aged 40 to 49 years (16.5 km) and 50 to 59 years (16.4 km).

Working age people did tend to commute longer distances than young people and older people. For example, people aged between 15 to 19 years had the shortest average commuting distance (11.3 km). This is possibly related to persons in this age range having a greater reliance on transport other than driving due to the legal age of holding a drivers licence, as well as cost of car ownership for those at the beginning of their working lives. Only 34% of persons in the 15 to 19 age group drove to work, compared with 63% of those 20 years and older.


Graph Image for Average commuting distances by age groups, Australia, 2016(a)(b)(c)

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250km or more. (c) Based on distance from usual residence.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016



SEX


The average commuting distance in Australia was longer for males (17.7 km) than females (14.2 km). The Census showed that males were more likely to be employed in occupations such as Machinery operators and drivers (90% of workers were male) and Technicians and trades workers (83% of workers were male), which were also the occupations with the longest average commuting distances.

The average commuting distance for males and females were similar where hours worked was low. Where the work week was between 1 to 24 hours, the average commute for males was 12.8 km, compared to 12.1 km for females. In comparison, when males worked more than 41 hours for the week, they typically commuted 4.1 km more, on average (19.5 km), than women who worked the same number of hours (15.4 km).


Graph Image for Average commuting distances by hours worked, Australia, 2016(a)(b)(c)(d)

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250km or more. (c) Based on distance from usual residence. (d) Excludes number of hours worked 'none' and 'not stated'.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Commuting distance by sex within states and territories

The longest average commuting distances for males was in Queensland (18.9 km), followed by Western Australia (18.0 km). For women, the longest average commuting distance was in Victoria (14.6 km) followed by New South Wales (14.5 km). The shortest commuting distance was in the Australian Capital Territory for both males (12.3 km) and females (11.2 km).

Graph Image for Average commuting distances by sex, state and territory, 2016(a)(b)(c)

Footnote(s): (a) Excludes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250km or more. (c) Based on distance from usual residence.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016



OCCUPATION

The average commuting distance for most occupations in Australia was less than 17.0 km. The exception was Machinery operators and drivers and Technicians and trade workers, who had an average commuting distance of 21.1 km and 18.2 km respectively. People who worked in these occupations and travelled long distances (100 km to less than 250 km) were proportionally more likely to spend Census night away from home, compared to those who commuted shorter distances. Around 20% of Machinery operators and drivers and 18% of Technicians and trade workers were away from home on Census night which might be an indication of fly-in/fly-out workers.

Sales workers travelled the shortest average commuting distances in Australia (12.6 km).


Graph Image for Average commuting distances by occupation, Australia, 2016(a)(b)(c)(d)

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250km or more. (c) Based on distance from usual residence. (d) Occupation excludes 'inadequately described' and 'not stated'.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Commuting distance by occupation within states and territories

Machinery operators and drivers in Queensland and Western Australia travelled the longest average distances (25.3 km and 23.4 km respectively); however their counterparts in the Australian Capital Territory travelled considerably shorter average distances (13.9 km). Sales workers in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory travelled the shortest distances on average (9.5 km and 10.0 km respectively), while the longest commute for Sales workers was in Victoria (13.0 km).


INDUSTRY


In Australia workers in the Mining industry commuted the longest average distance (40.3 km), followed by workers in Electricity, gas, water and waste services and in Agriculture, forestry and fishing (both around 21 km). Around 20% of people working in Mining who travelled long distances (100 km to less than 250 km) were away from home on Census night, potentially indicating Fly-in/Fly-out workers.

The industry with workers travelling the shortest distance was Accommodation and food services with an average distance of 11.4 km, followed by Retail trade (12.9 km). The people employed in these two industries were more likely to work part-time (50% and 59% respectively) than people in other industries (29%). They also had high proportions of young people (15-19 years), who made up 14% of total people employed in Retail trade and 24% of people in Accommodation and food services, although across all industries 15-19 year olds made up only 5% of persons employed.


Graph Image for Average commuting distances by industry, Australia, 2016(a)(b)(c)(d)

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250km or more. (c) Based on distance from usual residence. (d) Industry excludes 'inadequately described' and 'not stated'.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Commuting distance by industry within states and territories, capital cities and rest of state

People working in Mining had the longest average commuting distance for all states and territories. Tasmania was the state with the longest average distance for workers in Mining (60.3 km). People working in Accommodation and food services had the shortest average commuting distance in most states and territories except Tasmania and the Northern Territory, ranging from 9.8 km (Australian Capital Territory) to 11.9 km (Victoria). More than 60% of people employed in Accommodation and food services were working on a part time basis.

People working in Mining also had the longest average commuting distances for both capital cities and rest of state. For example, those working in Mining and living in Darwin had the longest commuting distance across capital cities (43.7 km), while those living outside of Brisbane's capital city in Queensland had the longest commutes (66.7 km) overall.

INCOME

Overall, people with higher incomes appear to travel longer commuting distances. People with a weekly income of $2,000-$2,999 travelled the longest commuting distance (20.0 km), followed by people with a weekly income of $1,750-$1,999 (19.0 km). People with a weekly income of $1-$149 had the shortest average commuting distance (9.6 km).

Graph Image for Average commuting distances by personal weekly income, Australia, 2016(a)(b)(c)(d)

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250km or more. (c) Based on distance from usual residence. (d) Excludes income 'not stated'.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Commuting distance by income within capital cities and rest of state

People living in capital cities travelled shorter commuting distances compared with people outside capital cities for all income ranges. The greatest difference in average commuting distance was for people with a weekly income of $2,000-$2,999, where people in capital cities commuted 17.3 km compared with people in the rest of state who commuted 28.7 km. The smallest difference was for people with a weekly income of $650-$799, with people in capital cities (14.2 km) commuting on average 1.3 km less than people living outside capital cities (15.5 km).


LEVEL OF HIGHEST EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT


Across Australia, people with a Certificate III or IV had the longest average commuting distance (18.0 km), followed by people with an Advanced diploma (16.3 km) and Certificate I & II (16.1 km). People with a Secondary education (Years 9 and below) had the shortest average commuting distance (15.2 km), followed by those with a Bachelor degree (15.3 km) and Postgraduate degree (15.3 km).


Graph Image for Average commuting distances by highest educational attainment, Australia, 2016(a)(b)(c)(d)

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250km or more. (c) Based on distance from usual residence. (d) Excludes Highest educational attainment, 'inadequately described', 'no educational attainment' and 'not stated'.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Commuting distance by highest education qualifications within states and territories

Across all states and territories, people with a Certificate III & IV commuted the longest average distance, with those living in Queensland travelling the furthest (18.8 km).

The shortest average commuting distance by education qualification varied across states and territories. People with a Postgraduate degree had the shortest commuting distance in Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, ranging from 11.7 km to 14.5 km. In Queensland, people with Postgraduate degrees shared the shortest commuting distance with people who had a Bachelor degree, both averaging 15.2 km. However, people with a Secondary education (Years 9 and below) had the shortest commuting distance for the remaining states and territories, ranging from 10.0 km in the Australian Capital Territory to 14.8 km in New South Wales.


MODE OF TRAVEL TO WORK


At a national level, people who travelled to work by train had the longest average commuting distance (22.5 km), followed by truck (18.0 km) and driver of a car (17.0 km). Generally those who took active transport (those who walked or rode a bicycle to work) commuted the shortest distances. People who walked to work travelled an average distance of 6.1 km, while bicycle commuters had only a slightly longer average commuting distance (7.6 km).

Refer to the data cube usage notes in the Explanatory Notes for more information on Mode of Travel to Work.


Graph Image for Average commuting distances by mode of travel to work, Australia, 2016(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250km or more. (c) Based on distance from usual residence. (d) Place of Work and Method of Travel to Work are collected on the Census form but represent different reference periods. (e) Excludes 'worked at home', 'did not go to work', and 'not stated'.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Commuting distance by mode of transport within states and territories, capital cities and rest of state

For each state and territory, the majority of commuters travelled to work as a driver of a car. Queensland had the longest distance to work for people who commuted using this mode of transport (17.6 km) compared with the Australian Capital Territory which had the shortest (13.2 km). Active transport commuters generally had the shortest journey with those who walked to work in the Australian Capital Territory reporting the shortest average commuting distance of 2.9 km, followed by New South Wales (4.5 km) and Victoria (4.8 km).

Across most capital cities, people who took active transport commuted short distances, while those who drove to work or caught a train generally travelled much longer distances. The choice of transport is often related to a person’s proximity to their place of work. For example, in Melbourne, many people who walk to work or ride a bicycle tend to live in the centralised areas of the city (see Map 1 and 2), while many people who were a driver of a car or take a train (see Map 3 and 4) to work tended to live in the outer areas of the city. This pattern is generally seen across most capital cities in Australia.


MAP 1 - PROPORTION OF PERSONS WHO WALKED TO WORK - Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2s) within Greater Melbourne, 2016

Image: A map showing the proportion of people who walked to work in Greater Melbourne SA2s.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


MAP 2 - PROPORTION OF PERSONS WHO BICYCLED TO WORK - SA2s within Greater Melbourne, 2016

A map showing the proportion of people who bicycled to work in Greater Melbourne SA2s.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


MAP 3 - PROPORTION OF PERSONS WHO DROVE A CAR TO WORK - SA2s within Greater Melbourne, 2016
A map showing the proportion of people who drove a car to work in Greater Melbourne SA2s.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


MAP 4 - PROPORTION OF PERSONS WHO CAUGHT THE TRAIN TO WORK - SA2s within Greater Melbourne, 2016
Image: A map showing the proportion of people who caught the train to work in Greater Melbourne SA2s.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016