Go West for a job, not lifestyle

WA’s population growth, and unfilled job vacancies, is outstripping the nation’s. I’ve got to wonder if Adam Gilchrist started the trend. TIM HARCOURT

When Adam ‘Gilly’ Gilchrist announced his retirement from international cricket he received plaudits everywhere for his lusty big-hitting, effective wicket-keeping, good sportsmanship and his amazing impact on the record books.


But Gilly may not know that he also started a national trend. When the young Lismore-born wicket-keeper saw limited opportunities to break into the NSW team, he moved to Perth to break into the Western Australia shield team.


While the Sandgropers initially gave him a hard time – as he replaced the popular local keeper Tim Zoehrer – they soon embraced Gilly as one of their own as he became a superstar for both WA and Australia.


New population data shows that Gilly was followed west by a large number of eastern-staters – particularly from NSW. The graph below shows that WA and Queensland have attracted large numbers of interstate migrants, while NSW, SA, Tasmania and to a small extent Victoria have experienced net losses.


Why has this “Gilly effect” occurred? Well, it’s like the case of Gilchrist himself; NSW residents have moved west for employment opportunities. And while there’s not a huge demand for wicket-keepers in WA, there’s huge demand for trades and technical occupations as well as services in the resources industry to meet the pressing demands from China and the like.


WA’s population growth is outstripping Australia’s; it has the highest level of unfilled job vacancies, the tightest labour market and strong business investment. But it’s not cheap; the story of the strength of Perth’s housing prices has been well told.


Once upon a time, people moved to Perth for reasons of housing affordability, but now there is evidence that there would be even more interstate migrants going west if the real estate was cheaper.


In short, you go west for the work, but you may not make a killing if you sell in the east and buy in the west.


However, it is not all doom and gloom in the east. Sydney is still ranked the world’s greatest city according to a recent international survey (Melbourne is number six), and both Australia’s largest cities attract overseas migrants.


Interestingly, both Queensland and WA are also attracting new overseas migrants to help fill the labour shortages in the resources sector. There is evidence that in particular sectors, such as in iron ore, WA is attracting a lot of skilled migrants from Brazil, which also has a large iron ore industry and is a major mining exporter.


With many Brazilians moving “from Rio to Freo” the “state of excitement” is going to get a whole lot more exciting!

Intrastate migration


Australian population growth



*Tim Harcourt is chief economist at Austrade and author of The Airport Economist www.austrade.gov.au/economistscorner




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