The Sydney suburbs where women outnumber men in the workforce

Female workers now outnumber their male counterparts in two major Sydney regions as the share of women with a job in the city hits record highs.

Sydney’s rate of female labour force participation, which measures the share of adults with a job or looking for a job, reached 63.6 per cent in annual average terms in April, the highest on record.

New employment figures also reveal both the eastern suburbs and Ryde districts had more female workers than male workers in April.

There were 6200 more women employees than male employees in the eastern suburbs statistical region, while the participation rate for females in the district (75.6 per cent) was almost identical to the male rate (75.7 per cent).

Charlie Boyce, founder of Portobello PR, leads an all-female team of workers at the firm’s office in Paddington.

“We notice that there’s a large pool of female-owned companies, small businesses and boutiques in the eastern suburbs, creating what feels like a community of female founders and workers,” she said.

Charlie Boyce (centre) and the all-female team at Portobello PR in Paddington.

Photo: Janie Barrett

Boyce, who lives in North Bondi, says women in her area are seeing new work opportunities available to them across different industry sectors.

“There’s also a shift in society whereby women are delaying having children until a little later in life and wanting to build their careers first,” she said. “Another reason for this could also be due to the eastern suburbs being notorious for high cost of living, with many families in this area requiring a double income to live in the area that they love.”

In the Ryde statistical region, which takes in Eastwood, Meadowbank and Hunters Hill, there were 2400 more women workers than male workers in April. That area has now had more employed women than men for the past six months, according to the detailed Bureau of Statistics jobs data which is not seasonally adjusted.

In several other Sydney regions, including the Inner West and North Sydney and Hornsby, male workers only outnumbered female workers by a small margin in April.

Men have traditionally had much higher rates of labour force participation than women, but the gap is steadily shrinking in Sydney.

Since the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020 the gap between male and female labour force participation in Sydney has narrowed from 11.7 percentage points to 9.8 percentage points, on an annual average basis. The proportion of women who work part-time, however, is still much higher than for men.

One factor linked to the rise in female employment has been the shift to more flexible work practices and increased use of digital technologies since the pandemic, including work from home.

The NSW government said recently these trends have enabled more women with caring and parenting responsibilities to enter or rejoin the labour force.

Professor Rae Cooper said there was an undersupply of good jobs for women workers in southwest Sydney.

The squeeze on household budgets due to high inflation and rising interest rates has also encouraged more women to take up employment.

But rates of women’s labour force participation vary greatly across the metropolitan area.

In Sydney’s South West statistical district which takes in Liverpool, Cabramatta and Bringelly, the annual average labour force participation rate for women in April was 52.8 per cent – about 20 percentage points lower than some inner-city districts.

Professor Rae Cooper, director of Sydney University’s Gender Equality in Working Life Research Initiative, said Sydney’s southwest is home to many essential frontline and trades workers, especially men with full-time hours and long commutes.

“Male family members being absent for large periods of each day tightens the spatial leash on women – as they need to be closer to home, schools, health and care services for kids and older family members,” she said.

A recent study by the initiative found a “severe undersupply” of good jobs that matched the needs of potential women workers in southwest Sydney.

“Boosting the availability of good local jobs and good flexible jobs would allow more women to work, and to facilitate them working more hours,” Cooper said.

Eastern Sydney and Ryde are not the only parts of the state where women workers outnumber their male counterparts. In the Murray region in southern NSW there have been more female employees than male employers for several months, and the participation rate for women is higher than for men.

However, many parts of regional NSW have much lower rates of labour force participation for both men and women than in urban areas.

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