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Aspects of Structural Change in Australia

Commission research paper

This paper was released on 3 December 1998. Structural change and associated adjustment issues are of central concern to the Productivity Commission. The Commission is required by its charter to have regard to the Government's desire to facilitate adjustment within the economy by those people, industries and regions affected by its policy proposals. Responding to the challenge of lifting Australia's productivity performance reinforces the importance of examining adjustment related issues.

To this end, in addition to focussing on adjustment issues in its public inquiries, the Commission is undertaking a broad stream of research directed at examining the adjustment and regional consequences of economic change. It is also examining adjustment issues in the context of the operation of Australia's labour market and the conduct of competition policy.

This report is part of that stream of work. It provides factual information about structural change in Australia since the early 1970s. The areas examined include comparisons of the direction and extent of structural change in Australia and a selection of other countries, the extent and nature of adjustment among Australia's regions, and some key developments in Australia's labour market.

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Structural change and associated adjustment issues are central social and economic issues. Reflecting this, the Productivity Commission is undertaking a broad stream of research covering the adjustment and regional consequences of economic change.

The research paper - Aspects of Structural Change in Australia - released today is part of this stream of work. The report provides factual information about structural change in Australia since the early 1970s.

The report compares the direction and extent of structural change in Australia with a selection of OECD and Asian countries, examines the extent and nature of adjustment among Australia's regions and identifies some key developments in Australia's labour market.

As in other countries, Australia has seen extensive changes in its industry composition, employment and investment over the past few decades. Output and employment in the services sector have expanded considerably. Declines in the manufacturing sector's share of output and employment have been greater in Australia than in most other OECD countries. Since 1970, Australia's rate of structural change has been somewhat greater than the average for a selection of 15 OECD countries. However, it has been below that of some countries in our region, including New Zealand and many of our Asian trading partners.

Pressures for structural change have had differential effects across regional Australia. In general, rates of structural change in employment have been higher and more varied in non-metropolitan regions, notably those with a strong reliance on mining activities. The Commission found considerable diversity among regions with high rates of structural change. Some have enjoyed strong growth in population, employment and income. Others have experienced declines in employment, slower rates of income growth and rapid rises in unemployment. Diversity is also evident for regions with relatively low rates of structural change.

The last three decades have seen significant changes within Australia's labour market. Job growth has not kept up with increases in the supply of labour, resulting in considerable increases in unemployment and underemployment. Different patterns of growth across the economy have affected the demand for particular skills with the young, the old, the unskilled and those from non-English-speaking backgrounds affected the most.

Background information

Leonora Nicol (Media, Publications and Web) 02 6240 3239 / 0417 665 443

Preliminaries
Cover, Copyright, Foreword, Contents, Acknowledgements, Abbreviations, Overview

1 Introduction

2 Australia in an international context
2.1 The direction of structural change
2.2 Variations in the rate of structural change

3 Structural change across Australia's regions
3.1 Regional Australia - a snapshot
3.2 Structural change in metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions
3.3 Regional variability and industry adjustment
3.4 Structural change and regional performance

4 Changes in the labour market
4.1 Unemployment
4.2 Underlying changes in the labour market
4.3 Labour mobility

A Measuring structural change
A.1 Structural change index
A.2 Structural change data

B Australia's regions - additional data and information
B.1 Some broad regional comparisons
B.2 Regional classifications
B.3 Regional performance and industry structure data
B.4 Variations in regional performance
B.5 Shift-share analysis
B.6 Interstate migration

C Supplementary labour data

References

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