Workforce information

Workforce information

Western Australia has a population of around 2.6 million people, of which more than half make up the State’s workforce of some 1.4 million people. WA has the fourth largest workforce in Australia, with a higher rate of workforce participation compared to the national average.

  • Aboriginal Australians make up 1.8% of the State’s workforce, while those born overseas make up 37.1%.
  • Youth aged 15–24 comprise about 14.6%, while those over 60 comprise 9.0%.
  • WA’s male to female workforce ratio is 55% to 45%.
  • Many Western Australians in the workforce hold post school qualifications, with 24.2% holding a university degree and 33.3% a VET Certificate or Diploma.
  • 40.8% have no post school qualifications.

The vast majority (around 80%) of the State’s population and workers reside in Greater Perth (including Mandurah).

However, the regions are quite diverse in nature and incorporate a variable mix of employment in areas such as services, resource projects, agribusiness and tourism.

The majority of workers in the State are employed on a full time basis (67.6%), with a broadly similar industry employment composition to that of the other states in Australia, with 72.6% employed in the State’s service related industries, compared to 78.1% for Australia.

The top three employing industries in WA are currently health care and social assistance, construction and retail trade.

However, one key difference in employment composition relates to WA having a higher proportion of workers employed in the mining industry compared to nationally.

Source: ABS Census 2011; ABS 3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics; ABS 6202.0 – Labour Force, Australia; ABS 6227.0 Education and Work, Australia; and ABS 6291.0 – Labour Force Australia, Detailed, Quarterly.

Outlook and assessment for WA

WA has a land mass of over two and a half million square kilometres, nearly 10 times the size of New Zealand. Western Australians enjoy a good quality of life supported by strong infrastructure and quality government services. With its immense dimensions, small population and Perth’s distinction as the world’s most isolated capital city, WA is a state of contrast that offers many opportunities for growth and prosperity.

In recent years WA’s richness in natural resources and proximity to Asian markets has provided economic growth and benefits to both industry and community; however the ever-changing demographic, economic and social climate means that it must continue to adapt and grow into the future. In particular, the State must respond to its changing workforce profile and position itself to meet the developing labour market challenges. The State’s population and labour market have a direct impact on the planning and development of our future workforce.


Employment forecasts

Forecasts from both Victoria University’s Centre of Policy Studies (out to 2019–20) and the Commonwealth Department of Employment (out to November 2020) show that over the next few years WA’s employment growth by industry is expected to be broadly based. While there is some variation between the two sets of forecasts, an area of consistency is that the top three employing industries of health care and social assistance, construction and retail trade are expected to account for at least three out of every 10 jobs in the State by the end of the respective forecasting periods. Other areas of employment growth, although to a lesser extent, are expected to be in professional, scientific and technical services, education and training, and accommodation and food services.

Disclaimer: Forecasts of employment growth

In view of the State’s current dynamic economic environment, it is very difficult for any forecaster to accurately predict specific and detailed movements in employment growth as there are many uncertainties to be considered. As such, care needs to be exercised when interpreting any projections of labour market movements for the State. In particular, the following chart showing the two different forecast sets of employment growth by industry should only be used as a broad guide as to an indicative picture of what the State’s future labour market may look like under the assumptions adopted by either forecaster.

Furthermore, expected growth in employment does not necessarily mean jobs will be easier or harder to obtain in any particular industry area – levels of competition for vacant positions can often be quite marked and variable.

Prospective students or jobseekers are encouraged to undertake research into possible training / career paths they may be interested in. The Department’s Career Centre is available to assist with career advice or information about training and education options.

View data as a table View data as a graphical chart
Employment forecasts by industry for Western Australia (in 000s)
Employment forecasts by Industry for Western Australia
Industry type2015-16 Employment level (ABS)Employment growth to 2019-20 (CoPS)Employment growth to Nov 2020 (DoE)*
Health care and social assistance157.514.921.4
Retail trade137.511.711.5
Professional, scientific and technical services100.411.017.6
Education and training97.27.020.6
Accommodation and food services91.89.47.3
Public administration and safety79.16.011.7
Transport, postal and warehousing71.87.44.4
Other services59.76.23.5
Administrative and support services43.44.96.9
Wholesale trade38.23.92.0
Financial and insurance services29.70.72.7
Agriculture, forestry and fishing*27.40.9-3.2
Arts and recreation services27.01.62.6
Rental, hiring and real estate services24.72.12.9
Information media and telecommunications16.11.9-0.7
Electricity, gas, water and waste services14.82.40.0
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 6291.0, 2015-16
Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS), Victoria University, 2015
Commonwealth Department of Employment (DoE), Labour Market Information Portal, Nov 2015
*Note: DOE employment growth forecasts are negative for Mining and agriculture,and Forestry and fishing.


Quarterly labour and economic snapshot

The Department prepares a Labour and economic snapshot for Western Australia each quarter, based on the most up to date information. The snapshot provides some analysis of the current situation and outlook for the State’s labour market. The current edition of the labour and economic snapshot is now available for download. Its key message is that labour market conditions in WA continued to be subdued in the June quarter 2016. It also shows the following.

  • Labour market conditions in the State deteriorated further over the September quarter, with a net loss in employment and a rise in the State’s unemployment rate. The trend of falling full time employment continued for the seventh consecutive quarter.
  • Western Australia saw a contraction in employment of 1.0%, while the State’s average unemployment rate for the September quarter 2016 was 6.2%, up 0.4 of a percentage point from the June quarter.
  • The latest available broad-based forward indicators of the State’s overall economy suggest a likely continuation of weaker conditions in the labour market during 2016–17.

View the September quarter 2016 labour and economic snapshot for WA

Industry information and intelligence

The Department sources information on skills supply and demand, workforce development issues, current emerging skills shortages and other related intelligence from a wide range of sources. This includes strong liaison with peak industry bodies, businesses, non-government organisations and many other stakeholders. In particular, Western Australia has industry training advisory arrangements in place with nine training councils, each covering a particular industry sector of the State’s economy.

Industry Training Councils

ITCs represent specific industry areas and play a vital leadership role in WA’s workforce planning and development, working closely with key stakeholders including peak employer, employee and industry organisations. In addition to advising the State Training Board and the Department of Training and Workforce Development about attracting, retaining and skilling a capable and sustainable workforce, the ITCs provide:

  • high level, strategic information and advice that informs the State Training Board on the training needs and priorities of industry in Western Australia;
  • market intelligence on skills supply and demand, in particular current or emerging skills shortages; and
  • recommendations for training strategies that support industry’s skills development needs.

ITCs also have a central role in the development of quality vocational and education training curriculum to ensure that the skills and knowledge gained through training is aligned with current industry competencies and requirements. A full list of WA ITCs is available on the WA State Training Board website.


Regional plans

Regional workforce development plans have been developed through local alliances as part of the Skilling WA framework. They identify local workforce development challenges in regional areas and provide strategies to address them. These plans are available from the Regional workforce development plans section of our website.

Page last updated February 09, 2017