Data and Visualisations

There are many ways to understand a problem

We start with the data. Western Sydney University researchers, government agencies and private companies collect, analyse and present data on Western Sydney from a range of sources: the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Reserve Bank, the National Archives. While a lot of this data is available to everyone, it isn't necessarily accessible to everyone.

At the Centre for Western Sydney, we collect, analyse and present data too—but with the aim of increasing everyone's understanding of Western Sydney by making those sources accessible. On this page you can find accessible infographics and visualisations on key factors affecting Western Sydney, distilled down to quick facts, people and economy. There are also links to further data sets underpinning the visuals. If you want go deeper into an issue, click on the image to go to more data.

Why Western Sydney needs housing affordability

Rob Hall is the urban economist from our data partner Rob recently posted a blog investigating the impacts of rising housing costs on key workers in Parramatta. The analysis is worth a close look.

The term "key worker" typically refers to those who provide the essential services that underpin the operation of an urban economy. Key workers include workers in education, health, emergency services, cleaners and train and bus drivers.

Id estimates that in 2014 there were 17,360 key workers in the Parramatta local government area, which is 14.6% of all jobs in the LGA.The largest concentration of key workers in Parramatta is nurses (5,115 workers) due to the significant cluster of health care services in the area, especially in the Westmead Hospital precinct.

Parra_KeyW Parramatta Key Worker Clusters

Close examination of social and economic trends in Parramatta gives us an excellent guide to issues surrounding the ongoing presence of key workers in large prosperous cities. Id anticipates that the number of key workers in Parramatta will need to grow by between 3,900 and 5,100 workers in the next 15 years. The growth will be mainly in nursing, defence, fire fighter, police and school teacher occupations.

By definition, growth in the number of key workers parallels growth in more highly paid professional services occupations. Id calculate, for Parramatta, 24,000 new jobs across the services industries have been created since 1992, with growth increasing in knowledge-intense jobs like doctors, researchers, accountants, consultants, software designers and engineers.

While this is good news for Parramatta as it grows into its role as a metropolitan city, the rapid expansion of higher-paid services jobs is driving up housing prices. In 2010, says id, the median house price in Parramatta LGA was 8% more affordable than Greater Sydney as a whole. By 2014 this margin fell to just 2%. One observable consequence is that Parramatta's key workers are forced to live greater distances from their place of work.

An important planning lesson arises from this analysis. Id says that housing and economic development strategies need integration. New housing stock needs greater diversity, especially to ensure key workers maintain ready access to their jobs. Id says this diversity comes in three forms: in location, in product type, and in price points.

Parramatta is a barometer. We can no longer assume that housing affordability comes part and parcel with living and working in Western Sydney. Boosting an economy to generate jobs growth is important. But the benefits will be short-lived if an effective housing strategy isn't devised and implemented at the same time.

Guinea-born: the youngest birthplace group in NSW

People born in Guinea in West Africa are the youngest birthplace group in New South Wales according to our data partner

The median age of the 197 persons in this group in NSW at the 2011 census was just 12.2 years. reports that every other birthplace group in NSW has a median age of 18 years or more. So the Guinea-born group is very, very young by comparison.


Guinean-born in NSW by Service Age Groups

Id explains the youthfulness of the Guinea-born group this way:

Guinea itself has a very young age structure and a total fertility rate of 5.1 children per woman. The ratio of children to adults of Guinean-born persons in New South Wales could suggest families of 2 parents and 4 to 5 children. However, there could be other explanations for the apparent youth of this population, especially if the family size isn't as large as suggested. Guinea, which is located in West Africa, is neighboured by several countries that have experienced significant conflict in recent decades, including Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire. Guinea has at least 3 refugee camps and is currently home to 8,696 refugees from the region (UNHCR 2015). Perhaps some of the Guinean-born children were in fact born in Guinea to Ivorian or Liberian parents, then migrating to New South Wales.

The full blog is here

The blog raises some intriguing questions.

One is where do the Guinea-born families live? At the Centre for Western Sydney we analysed some backroom ABS data from the 2011 census to answer this question. Our finding is arresting. Of the 197 Guinea-born, 141 (over 70%) live in Western Sydney.

And of these 141 persons, 22 live in Auburn, 55 live in Bankstown, and 30 live in Blacktown.

In other words, just short of 55% of Guinea-born residents in NSW live in only three Western Sydney municipalities. Once again we observe the extraordinary role of particular communities in Western Sydney in receiving and resourcing newly arrived migrants, especially those needing assistance in respect to schooling, health and housing services.

Australia benefits enormously from its positive approach to migration, while multiculturalism has become an important value in Australian society. But better attention needs to be given to better resourcing the host communities directly involved.

What role does  Western Sydney play in refugee settlement?

Our data partner has released two data blogs addressing refugee arrival into Australia in recent years. One assesses the nature and size of refugee settlement.

The other takes a close look at the Syrian community in Australia (see below).

The first of these blogs notes that Australia accepted 11,970 humanitarian arrivals in 2014. Typically humanitarian migration has been around 8-10% of total permanent migration to Australia in recent years. The three main sources of humanitarian arrivals last year were, in order, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Importantly, the blog notes the benefit Australia will receive from this flow of migration. The figure below shows that migration (in all categories) adds to the youthfulness of the Australian population, with all the economic and social benefits which flow as a consequence.

Age of migration

The significant roles of Fairfield and Liverpool

As has been the case throughout Australian history, Western Sydney is playing a major role in the settlement of the current flow of humanitarian arrivals.  The blog shows that Western Sydney's Fairfield local government area is currently far and away the major destination for refugees in 2014, hosting 4873 arrivals. The next most significant LGA host for all Australia was Hume in north-western Melbourne, with 2754 arrivals, followed by Western Sydney's Liverpool with 2186 arrivals.

Western Sydney's heavy lifting compared to other parts of Sydney

The data can be read in conjunction with analysis by the Centre for Western Sydney of data released to the Australian Parliament in response to a question on notice by Western Sydney MP, Mr Laurie Ferguson (Hansard 25 June 2014 p.133). The Hansard entry can be downloaded at House of Representatives - Questions in Writing (opens in a new window).

For the period 1 January 2009 to 4 May 2014, the federal parliament data counts the number of family and humanitarian migrants who came from poorer non-English speaking nations, the government's English Proficiency groups 3 and 4.

Remarkably, Fairfield LGA received 10,434 humanitarian and family reunion migrants in this five year period, equal to 5.3% of the LGA's total population. Auburn LGA settled 5,092 persons in these two categories, equal to 6% of its population. Then Bankstown settled 3,919; Liverpool 4,913; and Parramatta 4,534. Clearly, agencies in these LGAs, including in education and health services, are being called on to provide resources at a level far beyond what other parts of Sydney are asked to give.

Specifically, the Humanitarian migration category refers to those people found to be refugees according to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Considering this category alone, we have processed the Hansard figures to reveal the major role played by Western Sydney communities in refugee re-settlement. For the 2009 to 2014 period, refugees were taken in by Western Sydney LGAs in the following numbers: Auburn 1669, Blacktown 1365, Fairfield 5130, Holroyd 745, Liverpool 2720 and Parramatta 1243. In contrast, better-off parts of Sydney played a much less significant role in refugee resettlement. Warringah LGA, for instance, in this five years period settled just 83 humanitarian migrants from language groups 3 and 4, with Manly receiving 12, North Sydney 32, and the Sutherland Shire just 14.

Surprisingly, Sydney's inner city, once a prime destination for poor migrants and refugees in the post-war years, now receives very few in the humanitarian category for these two language groups, with Leichardt settling just 25 for this period, Marrickville 41 and the Sydney LGA 147.

The Syrians in Western Sydney

What then of the Syrian community? 's a data blog on Syrian born migrants in Australia can be found at The Syrian community in Australia (opens in a new window).

The blog notes that "The 2011 Census showed 8,713 people born in Syria living in Australia. This is quite a small community compared to some of the larger groups, for instance we have over 76,000 from neighbouring Lebanon and 33,000 from neighbouring Turkey. And compared to Greece (100,000), Italy (185,000) and China (319,000) it is very small."

The blog notes also that the geographic distribution of Syrians in Australia is similar to that of Lebanese, with NSW alone having 61% of the total, and nearly 90% being in NSW and Victoria combined.

Syrian resettlement

As with other recent migrant destinations to Australia, Western Sydney is a primary destination, again alongside Hume in north-western Melbourne. The largest Syrian communities at the local government level are currently in Bankstown, NSW (944) and Fairfield, NSW (899), and Hume, Vic (598). These areas also have large Lebanese and Turkish communities.

Is Western Sydney a sprawl of low-density housing?

The latest blog from our data partner has interesting things to say about urban growth and density in Western Sydney. Only 40% of new housing development between 2006 and 2011 was in what Id calls the 'outer suburbs' of Sydney. This compares with a figure of 57% in Melbourne.

Western Sydney is often stereotyped as a region of sprawling low-density housing. Id shows that this isn't true, finding that Western Sydney now has significant zones of high density living. Corridors through Parramatta and Liverpool, for example, have achieved a relatively high density of population – roughly around 4,300 persons per km2.  This equates to the population densities of Stockholm in Sweden or Warsaw in Poland, European cities we might consider as higher density models of urban development.



In the corridor stretching from Blacktown to Penrith along the Great Western Highway a similarly dense stretch of residential development is emerging, and there are significant higher density urban nodes such as at Blaxland in the Blue Mountains and at Campbelltown, on both sides of the Hume Motorway.

Western Sydney still leading growth: latest population data

Our data partner id has analysed the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics population data release. The full id analysis can be found by clicking on the map image below.

The analysis confirms that Sydney is once again growing at above the national average, and that the Western Sydney region is the city's primary driver of population growth. Greater Sydney has now reached a population of 4.84 million, up from 4.76 million in 2013. This represents an annual growth rate of 1.8%, and compares to the national average of 1.6%.

2013-2014 Population growth

Population growth rates: Greater Sydney local government areas, 2013-2014

Data Source:, ABS regional population growth, 2014

The fastest growing sub-region in the metropolitan area, with a growth rate in 2013-14 of 6.1%, is Camden. This growth comes from ongoing suburban development on Sydney's periphery. There are 20,000 more people in Camden than ten years ago.

As ever, Blacktown also deserves mention in Sydney's population growth story. Blacktown is a very large LGA (over 333,000 residents) with population growth in both greenfields and brownfields locations. The LGA grew by 7,285 people in 2013-14, twice that of Camden in number, even though the rate of growth was lower at 2.2%.


Population Growth

Western Sydney, like the rest of metropolitan Sydney, will grow over the next thirty years. The Bureau of Transport Statistics (opens in a new window) forecasts Western Sydney's population to grow from 2,003,133 in 2011 to 3,410,536 in 2041. Greater Sydney's population (which includes Western Sydney) is forecast to grow from 5,650,095 to 8,380,321 over the same period.

That means around half the future growth in Greater Sydney is expected to come from Western Sydney at a growth rate of 1.8% over the next twenty years. The federal government's Intergenerational Report (opens in a new window) forecasts a nation-wide growth rate of 1.3% over the next forty years.


Forecast population growth, Greater Sydney and Western Sydney

Data source: Western Sydney and Greater Sydney Population Forecasts, BTS

Population Growth: from where?

Various factors influence a country's population: fertility rates, mortality rates, and in-flows and out-flows of migration.

Western Sydney is the focus of Australia's migration intake. When migration in Australia increases, as it has since 2007, this drives Western Sydney's population growth. In turn, this growth driver makes Western Sydney the most diverse large urban area in Australia: the number of Western Sydney residents born overseas outstrips the national average of 24.6% at 35%.

CWs_place of birth

Western Sydney population by birthplace

Data source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing 2011

Residents born overseas come from a diverse array of cultural and language backgrounds—though Western Sydney residents born in the Commonwealth countries, when combined, are still the predominant group. Nearly 39% of Western Sydney's population use a language other than English at home. The Australian average is around 18%


Western Sydney population by country of birth

Data source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing 2011

Western Sydney's status as the migration centre of Australia has an effect on the age of its population too. Most migrants move to Australia between the ages of 20 and 39. In part as a consequence—alongside a number of other factors—the Western Sydney population tends to be younger than the rest of Australia. In 2011, %10.9 of Western Sydney residents were over the age of 65. The Australia-wide average for the same group was 14%.

WSyd Age segments

Western Sydney population by % of service age group

Data source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing 2011


Building Homes

Residential building approvals are a ready guide to development and economic activity, employment and investment. While sensitive to sector-wide 'shocks'—like the global economic crisis in 2007-08—approvals also tend to move in cycles. Currently, building approvals are trending upwards in Western Sydney through a combination of sustained demand for housing and favourable economic conditions.


Western Sydney residential approvals 

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Building Approvals, Australia (8731.0)

Growing Jobs?

The key challenge facing Western Sydney is matching its growing population and labour force to the jobs available within the region. The divergence of local jobs and local population means that Western Sydney residents must travel further, and this in turn affects productivity and quality of life.


Western Sydney forecast population and jobs comparison

Data source: Western Sydney population and employment forecasts, BTS

The deficit between jobs and population will vary widely across Western Sydney, as will the mix of employment available.

Jobs and Pop by LGA

Forecast population and jobs by LGA 2031

Data source: Western Sydney population and employment forecasts, BTS

The traditional driver of employment in Western Sydney, manufacturing, has been diminishing in its importance to the labour market for thirty years, but has continued to contribute strongly to the region's economy in terms of the value of goods and services it provides.  Between 2006-07 and 2011-12, manufacturing's contribution to the gross regional product of Metropolitan Sydney declined only slightly: from around 22.7m to 21.9m.


Manufacturing employment in Western Sydney: the location and extent of change. 

Data source: ABS, Census of the Population 1981, 1996 and Census Community Profiles, 2001 - 2011

The creation of new jobs in emerging industries will require a complex mix of government policy, increased levels of education, and increases in the level of entrepreneurial activity. Many projects currently underway or planned  by the state and federal governments will bring new jobs and increased productivity to the region. But matching the skills of the Western Sydney labour force with new industries is key to capitalising on these developments.


Western Sydney labour force % by occupation

Data source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing 2011

By submitting a comment you acknowledge you agree with the Terms and Conditions.
^ Back To Top

Data use

id_logo is the Centre for Western Sydney's data partner. Clicking on any of the graphics contained on this page will take you to the source data provided by