This information sheet provides evidence about the relationship between airport infrastructure and economic activity. It draws together evidence from the international literature and evidence for major Australian airports. It presents estimates of the number of jobs located at major Australian airports in 2011, the industry structure and skill mix of that employment, and recent growth in employment based on the ABS Census of Population and Housing.

Key findings:

Employment and economic activities in and around an airport varies with different geographic scales being examined, position of the airport in the market (including spatial competition among airports when there is a secondary airport) and industry structure of the region.

  • European evidence on the direct on-site jobs created by airports suggest medium to large sized airports create around 1000 jobs for every million passengers per annum (mppa) and equivalent American airports about 700 jobs per mppa, although this can vary from as low as 300 to over 2000 jobs per mppa depending on the airport.
  • According to ABS census data, a total of 67 600 people were employed in 2011 at a set of 10 major Australian airport sites (all mainland capital city airports plus Gold Coast, Cairns and Townsville). Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth Airports each have between 10 000 and 15 000 jobs located on-site.
  • On-site employment at the selected major Australian airports is principally in the Transport, postal and warehousing industry (48 per cent) and in Public administration and safety (16 per cent). About 20 per cent of people employed at these airports have a bachelor degree or higher qualification, while 39 per cent have no post-school qualification.
  • On average, across the ten selected major Australian airport sites, there were about 580 people employed onsite in 2011 for every million annual passengers. This is broadly in line with the average ratio for United States airports, but lower than the European average.
  • In recent years, airports have been amongst the most important job growth hubs in Australian cities. Between 2006 and 2011, employment growth was particularly pronounced at the Perth Airport site (which added about 6 000 jobs), the Brisbane Airport site (3 900 jobs added), and at Melbourne Airport and its immediate surrounds (4 500 jobs added). Employment at airports has been growing as passenger numbers increase and as airports expand their scale of operations and create retail and office-based developments on-site.
  • Despite 19 per cent growth in passenger numbers at Sydney Airport between 2006 and 2011, there was minimal employment growth at the Sydney Airport site (200 jobs added) or at nearby Mascot (400 jobs added).
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