West Sydney has emerged from the lockdown more susceptible to “economic scars”, experts say, with new figures showing the region has the highest unemployment rates in the city.
Sydney’s three statistical districts, the Inner Southwest, Southwest and Parramatta, accounted for nearly half of the city’s job losses in October, with the majority of Covid’s ‘worrying LGAs’ located in those areas.
These LGAs faced tougher restrictions than the rest of the city during Delta’s outbreak, including a curfew and travel limits if you weren’t a “licensed worker.”
In new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Inner South West, which includes the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA, had the city’s highest unemployment rate, at 8.8%, with male unemployment of the region reaching 10.4% in October.
The southwest, which includes Fairfield, Cabramatta and Liverpool, has seen its unemployment rate soar to 8%, the city’s second highest. Parramatta was third at 7.9%, with female unemployment reaching 10%.
For comparison, the unemployment rate for the city as a whole was 5.7% in October.
The region represents some of the city’s most diverse suburbs, with a large percentage of residents having a parent born abroad or speaking a language other than English at home.
The area is also home to many jobs that would be impossible to do at home, including roles in construction and hospitality. A Western Sydney Tafe report from March showed that the most in-demand jobs in the region included electricians, carpenters, cooks and storekeepers, all jobs that were hit hard by the lockdown.
Matt Grudnoff, senior economist at the Australia Institute, said the nature of jobs in the region left the possibility of “economic scars”, whereby people who lose their jobs never return to the workforce.
âUnemployment creates what we call economic scars, which means people are pulling out of the labor market. If a business was expected to come back and not survive, or it is now operating at a lower level and has been badly affected, then a lot of people will not get their jobs back.
âAnd if you’ve been unemployed for a year or more, you technically become long-term unemployed. And, yes, you find it much more difficult to get a job.
“Psychologically, it can also be significant for the individual to have lost his job, he loses confidence in himself, he loses his skills.”
Grudnoff said the concentration of unemployment in the region indicated that the “scars” had already started, with social disadvantage creating a vicious cycle of precarious jobs and unemployment.
“We have seen massive growth in precarious work, and the problem with precarious workers is that as soon as there is an economic shock, like a pandemic, they are the first to lose their jobs.”
Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue executive director Adam Leto said it was “not surprising” to see unemployment rising in the region.
âThere is no doubt that this year’s lockdown has hit residents and businesses in West Sydney harder than other parts of the city.
âWith so much of our economy focused on construction, manufacturing and small businesses, sectors that have been particularly vulnerable during the pandemic, it’s no surprise to see unemployment numbers rise. “
Leto added that the lockdown underscored the need to invest in the “liveability” of western Sydney. He said the unemployment figures reflected the inequality and “social disadvantage” in the region.
âIn addition to its economic impact, the pandemic has highlighted the social inequality that exists in the city and any stimulus package must seriously consider the opportunities that can not only boost economic activity but also address social disadvantage. “
Although employment in the city fell by 215,000 during the Delta epidemic lockdown, between June and October, the majority of job losses came from the interior southwest and Parramatta, which lost 56 respectively. 600 and 36,500 jobs.