2071.0.55.001 - Census of Population and Housing: Commuting to Work - More Stories from the Census, 2016, 2016  
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JOURNEY TO WORK IN AUSTRALIA

Jim Cooper and Jonathan Corcoran

Queensland Centre for Population Research, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland, Australia.


1. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE JOURNEY TO WORK

The journey to work is a daily reality for many Australians with important social, economic and environmental consequences. The Australian Census of Population and Housing is the main source of data on the journey to work in Australia. The journey to work is captured by an individual’s location of usual residence, their location of workplace along with the method by which they commuted. For the first time, 2016 Census data has been released with the distance travelled to work, enabling further analysis on this topic to be performed. See Commuting Distance for Australia for more information. This article focuses on the application of Census data to understand the characteristics of the journey to work in Australia. The Census provides a rich source of information on commuting patterns and helps us understand how these patterns differ by mode of travel, gender, occupation as well as their variation across our capital cities and other regions.


2. HOW MANY AND HOW FAR DO PEOPLE COMMUTE?

In Australia 9.2 million people were recorded as commuting to work on Census day, on average travelling 16.5 kilometres (km) to reach their workplace. This figure compares to estimates of 10.9 km in New Zealand1, 15.0 km in England and Wales2 and 12.0 km in The Netherlands3. For this article, average distance has been calculated using the distance variable available in TableBuilder and employed in the ABS article Commuting Distance for Australia, but only those persons who travelled to work on Census day have been included in the calculation.


TABLE 1: COMMUTERS(a) - DISTANCE OF THE COMMUTE BY GCCSA AND REGIONAL AREAS

Greater Capital City Statistical Area (GCCSA)Average commute (km)(b)GCCSAAverage commute (km)(b)

Greater Sydney16.5Rest of NSW16.9
Greater Melbourne16.8Rest of Victoria16.7
Greater Brisbane17.4Rest of Queensland16.9
Greater Adelaide13.5Rest of SA17.2
Greater Perth15.7Rest of WA20.7
Greater Hobart13.8Rest of Tasmania16.4
Greater Darwin13.1Rest of NT16.1
Australian Capital Territory14.4

(a) Employed persons who did not travel to work on Census day have been excluded, as have those with no fixed place of work.
(b) Average distance based on place of work in the week prior to Census day and place of usual residence. Excludes distances 250 km and over between place of usual residence and place of work.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


We observe important differences in the distance of this commute across cities, regional and remote areas, reflecting variations in the form and structure of our settlements. That is, how they are geographically organised in terms of land use and transportation infrastructure, along with their physical extent. Table 1 highlights these variations across the country, showing the shorter commutes in the small capitals of Greater Darwin (13.1 km), Greater Adelaide (13.5 km), Greater Hobart (13.8 km) and the Australian Capital Territory (14.4 km) and longer journey to work trips in regional and remote areas, in particular this is the case for the Rest of WA (20.7 km). Commuting distance can be calculated in several ways. For a more detailed discussion of commuting distance and how these calculations have been made, see: Commuting Distance for Australia.


3. SELF-CONTAINMENT

For 60% of employed Australians, work was reported to be in the same labour market region (Statistical Area 4 - SA4) as their residence. The proportion of individuals living and working in the same labour market region is referred to as the level of self-containment and is seen as a positive characteristic reflecting a balance between jobs and dwellings in an area. It also holds important environmental consequences in its capacity to increase the likelihood of transport to work via methods other than private cars, given distances between home and work are probably shorter. Despite the shorter distances, car use may be the only viable commuting option unless appropriate public transport is available between nearby areas, rather than focussed on the city centre. Figure 1 reveals the regional variations in self-containment across the country, highlighting the extent to which the larger size of SA4s in rural and remote regions (in particular the remote areas of both the NT and WA) contributes to higher rates of self-containment than in the major urban areas. In the capital cities, the concentration of jobs in the CBDs is reflected in lower self-containment rates for the surrounding SA4s.


FIGURE 1: SELF-CONTAINMENT OF JOURNEY TO WORK TRIPS BY SA4
A map showing self containment of journey to work trips by SA4.



Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Table 2 shows that the proportion of workers who live and work in the same SA4 has decreased since 2011 for most Australian cities. Adelaide, the Australian Capital Territory and Sydney report the three largest declines in self-containment with Darwin returning a small increase. In Sydney the lowest rate of self-containment occurs in Sydney-Inner West, with just 26% living and working in the same SA4. For Melbourne, the lowest rate is in Melbourne – Inner East (35%). Comparatively low rates of self-containment are also found in Brisbane – West (31%), Adelaide - West (49%) and Perth - North East (41%).


TABLE 2: CHANGE IN SELF-CONTAINMENT (SA4) BY GCCSA (2011 & 2016)

GCCSA20112016
Difference

Greater Sydney44.1%43.4%
-0.7
Greater Melbourne51.8%51.8%
0.0
Greater Brisbane47.6%46.9%
-0.7
Greater Adelaide56.0%54.9%
-1.1
Greater Perth52.6%52.5%
-0.1
Greater Hobart97.5%97.1%
-0.4
Greater Darwin96.1%96.5%
0.4
Australian Capital Territory96.7%96.2%
-0.5

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016


4. HOW PEOPLE COMMUTE?

Of the 9.2 million commuters on Census day, 79% travelled to work by private vehicle, 14% took public transport and 5.2% either cycled or walked. In addition to those who commuted on Census day, a further 0.5 million people worked at home and 1 million employed persons did not go to work on Census day. The strong preference towards private vehicles to journey to work echoes similar patterns observed in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, given that this mode of travel offers greater accessibility, flexibility and convenience relative to other modes. These proportions have changed little since 2011, except in New South Wales and Victoria where public transport usage has increased and car use has declined slightly.


Graph Image for Figure 2a - Share of commuting by mode of transport for greater capital city, 2016(a)(b)(c)

Footnote(s): (a) Public transport includes all journey to work trips that used a public bus, train, ferry, tram or taxi. (b) Private vehicle includes journey to work trips that used a private vehicle as a driver and/or passenger. (c) Active transport includes all journey to work trips that were completed by walking or cycling.

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



Graph Image for Figure 2b - Share of commuting by mode of transport for rest of state, 2016(a)(b)(c)

Footnote(s): (a) Public transport includes all journey to work trips that used a public bus, train, ferry, tram or taxi. (b) Private vehicle includes journey trips that used a private vehicle as a driver and/or passengers. (c) Active transport includes all journey to work trips that were completed by walking or cycling.

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



Public transport usage is highest for those working in Sydney (27% of commuters) and Melbourne (19% of commuters), while around 80% of commuters used private vehicles to get to work in Brisbane (80%), Hobart (84%), Adelaide (84%), the Australian Capital Territory (83%) and Perth (83%). Across the country, more than 85% of those commuting by car did not share with other commuters.


5. PATTERNS OF COMMUTING

The journey to work reflects the changing patterns of human settlement and in doing so comments on the extent to which home and work are geographically mismatched. Increased commuting distances are often associated with increased commuting times that hold important societal and individual impacts including congestion, air pollution, and implications for quality of life. Mapping the flows of commuters across Australia’s cities and regions reveals a number of important interactions between locations of residence and locales of work.

Sydney

The SA4 of City and Inner South contains 26% of all employment in Greater Sydney, so it is not surprising that Figure 3 shows a predominance of commuting flows into this SA4. Although 20% of those employed persons are residents of the SA4, substantial flows also can be seen originating from the Eastern Suburbs, Inner South West, Inner West and North Sydney and Hornsby. About a third of the employment in City and Inner South is held by commuters from outside this group of SA4s, with Parramatta, Sutherland and Northern Beaches each contributing over 25,000 commuters to the city.

Residents of Blacktown account for less than half of the 100,000 persons employed in that SA4. Conversely, around 100,000 residents regularly commute to jobs outside of the SA4, giving rise to a net loss of over 40,000 employed persons as shown in Figure 3.


FIGURE 3: NET FLOW AND NET EFFECT FOR SA4s IN GREATER SYDNEY, 2016(a)
A map showing commuting flows between Greater Sydney SA4s.



(a) See Downloads tab at the top of this page for a larger version of this map.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


The flow map also shows substantial net losses for Sutherland, from which 27,000 residents commute into City and Inner South and 14,000 commute to Inner South West. However, almost 70% of the employment in this SA4 consists of residents. That contrasts with Inner South West, where only 53% of the employment is retained by local residents, two thirds of whom commute to jobs outside the SA4, mainly to City and Inner South, Parramatta and Inner West, leading to a large daily loss of employed residents as shown on the map.

To examine commuting flows in Sydney at a finer SA2 geography, see Interactive Maps - Journey to work: Journey to Work from Place of Usual Residence, and Journey to Work to Place of Work.

Melbourne

Employment in Melbourne is the most centralised of the three eastern State capitals, with 34% of all employment in Greater Melbourne located in the SA4 of Inner. As Figure 4 shows, West, Inner South, Inner East and Melbourne - North East contribute the majority of commuters to this SA4, although residents of the SA4 account for around one third of all employment.

Some 100,000 commuters travel daily from West to Inner, with a further 24,000 travelling to North West. Despite gaining 16,000 commuters from that SA4 in return, and with almost 160,000 residents both living and working in the SA4, West experiences a net outflow of over 90,000 employed persons every work day.


FIGURE 4: NET FLOW AND NET EFFECT FOR SA4s IN GREATER MELBOURNE, 2016(a)
A map showing commuting flows between Greater Melbourne SA4s.



(a) See Downloads tab at the top of this page for a larger version of this map.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Figure 4 also shows substantial net losses of workers for North East (over 75,000) and Outer East (61,000). Approximately 49,000 commuters travel from South East to Inner, but this SA4 also gains commuters from Outer East (33,000) and Mornington Peninsula (22,000), reducing its daily net loss through commuting to under 40,000 as depicted in Figure 4.

To examine commuting flows in Melbourne at a finer SA2 geography, see: Interactive Maps - Journey to work: Journey to Work from Place of Usual Residence, and Journey to Work to Place of Work.

Brisbane

A total of 30% of the 1 million people who are employed in Greater Brisbane work in Inner City. Residents of that SA4 account for 29% of the local employment. About 25% of those employed in Inner City commute from outside Brisbane, primarily residents of Moreton Bay – South (7%), Ipswich (5%) and Logan – Beaudesert (5%). Commuters from the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast account for only about 4% of all journeys to work to Inner City.

Within Brisbane, Figure 5 illustrates the largest daily commuting flows to the inner city originating from South (over 50,000), North (36,000) and West (34,000). Despite its contribution of commuters to Brisbane - Inner City, North has a small net gain of commuters overall, as it receives almost 11,000 commuters from Inner City as well as 20,000 from Moreton Bay – South and 13,000 from Moreton Bay – North. Moreton Bay – South loses a large numbers of commuters to both Brisbane - Inner City and Brisbane – North and has a low rate of self-containment at 31%, contributing to a net loss of over 40,000 commuters every work day as identified in Figure 5.


FIGURE 5: NET FLOW AND NET EFFECT FOR SA4s IN GREATER BRISBANE, 2016(a)
A map showing commuting flows between Greater Brisbane SA4s.



(a) See Downloads tab at the top of this page for a larger version of this map.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


To examine commuting flows in Brisbane at a finer SA2 geography, see: Interactive Maps - Journey to work: Journey to Work from Place of Usual Residence, and Journey to Work to Place of Work.

Adelaide

Greater Adelaide contains only four SA4s, with the city area combined with the Adelaide Hills region, so in Figure 6 the flows appear not to be as centralised as in the other capitals. However, the SA4 of Central and Hills contains 38% of all employment in Greater Adelaide and 42% of those workers are resident in the same SA4. Only a little over 2% of the 215,000 workers employed in Central and Hills originate in SA4s outside of North (20%), South (20%) and West (15%). Figure 6 clearly shows the substantial net losses of commuters which both North and South experience to Central and Hills and West. The latter SA4 received a net gain of workers overall, despite having the lowest proportion of residents working in the SA4 in which they live out of any of Adelaide’s four SA4s. Approximately 43,000 workers commute each day from each of North and South to Central and Hills.


FIGURE 6: NET FLOW AND NET EFFECT FOR SA4s IN GREATER ADELAIDE, 2016(a)
A map showing commuting flows between Greater Adelaide SA4s.



(a) See Downloads tab at the top of this page for a larger version of this map.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


To examine commuting flows in Adelaide at a finer SA2 geography, see: Interactive Maps - Journey to work: Journey to Work from Place of Usual Residence, and Journey to Work to Place of Work.

Perth

Of the 850,000 people whose employment is in Greater Perth, 27% work in the SA4 of Inner. As the Perth flow map shows (Figure 7), the SA4 of North West contributes the greatest proportion of commuters to these jobs, with almost 66,000 residents making that commute daily. South East (19%), South West (14%) and North East (11%) also supply substantial numbers of the commuters who work in Inner, while residents account for 25% of the employment in this SA4.

North West also contributes commuters to work in South East and North East (both over 20,000). Almost 50% of employed residents of North West work in that SA4, but it still experiences a large net loss of commuters as shown in the Perth flow map (Figure 7).


FIGURE 7: NET FLOW AND NET EFFECT FOR SA4s IN GREATER PERTH, 2016(a)
A map showing commuting flows between Greater Perth SA4s.



(a) See Downloads tab at the top of this page for a larger version of this map.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Over 20,000 of the employed residents of Mandurah work in that SA4, but it experiences a loss of a little over 5,000 commuters to South West and 2,000 to South East each day.

Although the SA4, Inner is the location of work for more than a quarter of all employed persons in Greater Perth, more than 25,000 (almost one third) of its employed residents travelled outside the SA4 for employment, with the dominant destinations being North West and South East. These two SA4s each receive about 8,000 commuters per day from Inner, but those flows are overwhelmed by commutes in the opposite direction.

To examine commuting flows in Perth at a finer SA2 geography, see: Interactive Maps - Journey to work: Journey to Work from Place of Usual Residence, and Journey to Work to Place of Work.

Hobart

As there is only a single SA4 in Greater Hobart, Figure 8 displays the major flows and net effects of commuting at SA3 level. Approximately 50,000 employed persons work in the Inner SA3, about half of all employment in Greater Hobart. Just over one third are residents of the SA3, with substantial flows of commuters coming from North East (20%), North West (16%) and South and West (14%). Commuters originating in Brighton and Sorell - Dodges Ferry together account for about 8% of trips to work into Inner.

North West is the recipient of commuter flows from across Greater Hobart, with the most significant sources being North East, Hobart Inner and Brighton. As a result, it experiences only a small net loss of employed persons through daily commuting, unlike Hobart - South and West and Hobart - North East which each experience net losses of over 5,000 employed persons every work day.


FIGURE 8: NET FLOW AND NET EFFECT FOR SA3s IN GREATER HOBART, 2016(a)
A map showing commuting flows between Greater Hobart SA4s.



(a) See Downloads tab at the top of this page for a larger version of this map.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


The Hobart flow map (Figure 8) shows that smaller net losses are experienced by Brighton and Sorell - Dodges Ferry, although these losses of around 4,000 commuters each exceed 50% of their respective resident workforces.

To examine commuting flows in Hobart at a finer SA2 geography, see: Interactive Maps - Journey to work: Journey to Work from Place of Usual Residence, and Journey to Work to Place of Work.

Darwin

As there is only a single SA4 in Greater Darwin, Figure 9 displays the major commuting flows and net effects at SA3 level. Of the 72,000 people working in Greater Darwin, 38% work in Darwin City and 31% in the SA3 of Darwin Suburbs. Darwin is somewhat unique, in that about 7% of total employment (almost 5,000 persons) is retained by persons who consider their usual residence to be outside of the Northern Territory. Over 60% of those are persons employed in Litchfield, which is home to Darwin’s International Airport and the Robertson Barracks.


FIGURE 9: NET FLOW AND NET EFFECT FOR SA3s IN GREATER DARWIN, 2016(a)
A map showing commuting flows between Greater Darwin SA4s.



(a) See Downloads tab at the top of this page for a larger version of this map.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Of the residents of Greater Darwin working in Darwin City, almost 10,000 (38%) commute from Darwin Suburbs and 5,000 (19%) from Palmerston, while about one third reside in the SA3. Of the residents of Greater Darwin who work in Darwin Suburbs, 58% are local residents of the SA3, with Palmerston again providing about 19% of commuters to Darwin Suburbs and 14% originating in Darwin City. These flows result in a net gain of employed persons each day in Darwin City but a small net loss for Darwin Suburbs, as shown in the Darwin flow map (Figure 9). The flow map also clearly shows the net loss of employed persons through daily commuting that occurs in Palmerston.

To examine commuting flows in Darwin at a finer SA2 geography, see: Interactive Maps - Journey to work: Journey to Work from Place of Usual Residence, and Journey to Work to Place of Work.

Australian Capital Territory

As there is only a single SA4 in the ACT, Figure 10 displays the major flows and net effects at SA3 level. Of the more than 220,000 people working in the ACT, some 13% (29,000) are non-residents of the ACT. Of these, almost 60% work in North Canberra and South Canberra, which are the two largest centres of employment in the ACT accounting for 31% and 22% of total employment respectively.


FIGURE 10: NET FLOW AND NET EFFECT FOR SA3s IN GREATER AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY, 2016(a)
A map showing commuting flows between Greater Australian Capital Territory SA4s.



(a) See Downloads tab at the top of this page for a larger version of this map.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


These two SA3s draw commuters from all over the ACT, as can be seen in the ACT flow map (Figure 10). The major origins of commuters for both of these SA3s are Belconnen, Gungahlin and Tuggeranong. Of the almost 60,000 ACT residents employed in North Canberra, 23% commute from Belconnen, 20% from Gungahlin and 13% from Tuggeranong. However, the largest number of those employed in North Canberra reside in that SA3 (15,000 or 26%).

Only 16% of the employment in South Canberra is retained by residents of the SA3, with 19% commuting from Belconnen, 15% from Gungahlin and 21% from Tuggeranong. Canberra East also attracts commuters from all over the ACT, but in lesser numbers than the two SA3s previously discussed.

Belconnen, Gungahlin and Tuggeranong experience substantial net losses of employed persons as a result of commuter flows, while North Canberra and South Canberra experience large gains. In addition to almost 3,500 people employed in Canberra East who live outside the ACT (mainly in Queanbeyan and Karabar), this SA3 gains almost 11,000 commuters daily from within the ACT, as it is the employment location for almost 15,000 workers but has only just over 500 employed residents.

To examine commuting flows in the ACT at a finer SA2 geography, see: Interactive Maps - Journey to work: Journey to Work from Place of Usual Residence, and Journey to Work to Place of Work.


EXPLANATORY INFORMATION

Self-containment is when a person’s place of work was in the SA4 as their place of usual residence.

It is important to note that comparisons of self-containment at SA4 level between cities are affected by the number and size of the SA4s that they contain. In particular, Hobart, Darwin and the Australian Capital Territory each contain a single SA4 as defined by their GCCSA boundaries.

Data for commuting modes presented in this article reflect only the journey to work, not travel for other purposes.

In this article, ‘commuters’ are employed people excluding those who worked at home or had no fixed place of work on Census day. The sections on Self-Containment and Patterns of Commuting are based on employed people, excluding those with non-spatial geographies and data coded to no fixed workplace address or no usual address.

Net flows are the total inflow minus the total outflow between two specified regions. Net effect is the sum of net flows from a location to all other regions, or in other words, the total of all inflows minus the total of all outflows for a single region.

See the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) for more information on the levels of geography that have been used in this article – SA2, SA3, SA4 and GCCSA.


FOOTNOTES

1. New Zealand Household Travel Survey: Travel to work, by main urban area results (3-year moving average). Stats New Zealand. Accessed from < http://nzdotstat.stats.govt.nz/wbos/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=TABLECODE7432> on 16 May 2018.
2. 2011 Census Analysis - Distance Travelled to Work. Office for National Statistics. United Kingdom: Accessed from <http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105224314/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census-analysis/distance-travelled-to-work/2011-census-analysis---distance-travelled-to-work.html> on 16 May 2018.
3. Transport and Mobility 2016. Statistics Netherlands, The Hague/Heerlen/Bonaire, 2016. Accessed from
<https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0ahUKEwiolcix7rDaAhWLx7wKHR0oDjMQFgg3MAE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbs.nl%2F-%2Fmedia%2F_pdf%2F2016%2F38%2F2016-transport-and-mobility.pdf&usg=AOvVaw2s9_yrKde-GRCBX3g-ibo5> on 16 May 2018.