Every stat tells a story.

Over half of Australia’s working population drove to work in 2021

Media Release

Analysis of 2021 Census data has revealed that 53.1 per cent (6,398,000) of Australia’s working population (employed people aged 15 years and over) drove to work on Census Day in 2021.

This was almost twice as many people who drove themselves to work in 1981 (3,243,000), but still lower than the 2016 record of 6,625,000.

While most of the eastern seaboard states were dealing with COVID-19 restrictions on Census night, going to work in a car as the driver was still the most common method of traveling to work for all states and territories.

Duncan Young, General Manager, Census said, “The impacts of COVID-19 certainly had an effect on journey to work data from the 2021 Census, but we also saw the continuation of trends from previous Censuses.”

“Driving to work in a car has continued to be the most common response since the question was first asked in 1976.

“There were over 2.5 million people working from home on Census Day. However, in many industries people were required to be at their workplace and that is reflected in the data, with 66.7 per cent of employed people traveling to a workplace.

“Over 90 per cent of Panelbeaters and Vehicle Body Builders (92.7 per cent), Food Process workers (92.1 per cent) and Fabrication Engineering Trades workers (92 per cent) travelled to work”.

Driving to work was more common for those who live outside of Australia’s capital cities at 62.9 per cent. It was also the most common method of travel for those in Australia’s capital cities with just under half (48.7 per cent) of workers driving themselves to work on Census Day.

There was also a large difference between areas, 73.7 per cent of workers in Palmerston in the Northern Territory drove to work, while only 13 per cent of workers in Sydney Inner City drove to work.

Journey to work data also shows that over half a million people used public transport on Census Day. The train remained the most popular method of public transport with around 300,000 commuters, followed by 213,000 people who took the bus.

Melbourne City was the area with the highest proportion of workers who used public transport to commute to work at 17.6 per cent. Over half of these commuters used the tram to get to work.

Just 3.2 per cent of workers (385,000) used an active mode of transport, including cycling and walking, to get to work on Census Day in 2021. The ACT showed the most growth with almost 2,400 more active commuters than in 2011.

The ABS analysis is available in the article ‘Australia’s Journey to work’.


Media notes

  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via media@abs.gov.au (8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri).
  • Search for 2021 Census data using the QuickStats tool.
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