Daily Bulletin


  • Written by James Lennox, Senior Research Fellow, Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS), Victoria University

For most of us the experience of working from home this year has, on balance, been positive – enough that it may well become the norm after the COVID-19 crisis ends.

But modelling by Victoria University’s Centre of Policy Studies shows there will be costs alongside the personal benefits, with more urban sprawl, job flight to the biggest cities and greater economic disparities between regions.

More than 67% of 1,006 Australians polled in April for an NBN-commissioned survey said they expected to work from home more after the coronavirus crisis ends. Many businesses are sold on the concept too, with mounting evidence working from home can boost productivity.

Offices will not disappear – personal interactions still provide crucial benefits – but working two, three or four days a week from home could be well become the norm in many occupations.

Our modelling of the effects of this has identified two key results.

First, workers commuting less often will be prepared to commute further. This will change patterns of housing demand and labour supply. In particular it will drive more urban sprawl and boost populations of communities within acceptable commuting distances.

Second, while the population will spread out, many jobs are likely to go in the opposite direction, as more organisations set up shop in central business districts.

How we conducted our research

To predict the effect of working from home on housing and jobs, we considered what jobs could most easily be done remotely. Of 38 occupational groups classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, seven managerial, professional and clerical occupational groups stood out as having high work-from-home potential. These occupations accounted for 29% of the workforce at the last census (in 2016).

In our model, where workers choose where to live and work takes into account wages and housing costs in different locations, and the time it takes to travel to work. The modelling assumes that in the seven “WFH occupations” distance from the office will become less important.

Urban sprawl

Our modelling indicates people in WFH occupations will be more likely to live further from city centres if their weekly commuting costs are lower. Other workers and retirees move closer to city centres, but the net effect is still to shift housing demand outward. Nationally, residential areas expand 3.6%.

In Sydney, there is an overall shift in population out of inner suburbs (for example Glebe) and middle suburbs (for example Strathfield) into outer suburban areas (such as Penrith) and towns of the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast and the Southern Highlands. A similar outward shift of population is replicated on smaller scales in Newcastle and Wollongong.

Changes in residential population: Sydney Changes in residential population: Sydney. James Lennox, CC BY-ND

Similar results are obtained for Melbourne, Brisbane and other capital cities. In Melbourne, inner suburbs (for example Carlton) and middle suburbs (for example Glen Iris) lose population whereas populations rise in places like Werribee and Melton.

More urban sprawl while jobs cluster: working from home will reshape the nation Changes in residential population: Melbourne. James Lennox, CC BY-ND

In Brisbane, fewer people live in inner suburbs like New Farm whereas more live in places like Greenbank or the Samford Valley.

The pattern is replicated in smaller cities, such as Geelong in Victoria and the Gold Coast in Queensland.

Changes in residential population: Brisbane Changes in residential population: Brisbane. James Lennox, CC BY-ND

It is a good thing if people can spend less time and money commuting, access cheaper housing, or enjoy more pleasant lifestyles outside of big cities.

But urban sprawl has costs that are too often discounted.

Providing infrastructure for typical greenfield housing developments is relatively expensive. On the urban fringes of our cities, exposure of people and property to fire and other natural hazards has often been inadequately managed. In many coastal regions, urbanisation is driving loss, degradation and fragmentation of ecosystems and decline of native plants and wildlife species.

Costs like these could outweigh the benefits of working from home unless governments can deliver more sustainable forms of urban growth.

Read more: Why coronavirus must not stop Australia creating denser cities

Unequal growth of cities

The second key finding of the study is that more working from home will boost the growth of some cities but depress that of others.

There are advantages to businesses clustering together in central business districts. Working from home will increase their incentives to join the largest clusters in the largest cities.

Willingness to commute further will make these clusters accessible to even larger workforces. Lower demand for housing in inner-city areas will make real estate more affordable for commercial tenants.

The result is that jobs shift to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra and away from other cities, towns and rural areas.

Read more: The growing skills gap between jobs in Australian cities and the regions

Resident populations will be boosted in smaller cities and towns around these growth centres, but in the rest of Australia, cities and towns will be smaller than they otherwise would be.

With there already being significant economic disparities between city and rural areas, and between different regions, these new trends pose a further challenge for policy makers.

Authors: James Lennox, Senior Research Fellow, Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS), Victoria University

Read more https://theconversation.com/more-urban-sprawl-while-jobs-cluster-working-from-home-will-reshape-the-nation-144409

Writers Wanted

My favourite detective: Sam Spade, as hard as nails and the smartest guy in the room


Worried about COVID risk on a flight? Here's what you can do to protect yourself — and how airlines can step up


Fixing Your Bad Credit


The Conversation


Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

Cybersecurity data means nothing to business leaders without context

Top business leaders are starting to realise the widespread impact a cyberattack can have on a business. Unfortunately, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Tenable, some...

Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable - avatar Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable

InteliCare triple winner at prestigious national technology awards

InteliCare triple winner at prestigious national technology awards Intelicare wins each nominated category and takes out overall category at national technology 2020 iAwards. Company wins overal...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

Arriba Group Founder, Marcella Romero, wins CEO Magazine’s Managing Director of the Year

Founder and Managing Director of the Arriba Group, Marcella Romero, has won Managing Director of the Year at last night’s The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards. The CEO Magazine's Ex...

Lanham Media - avatar Lanham Media

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion