When it comes to jobs, sport kicks fossil fuels out of the park

by Jack Thrower


We often hear how important fossil-fuel mining is for jobs, but the reality is sport is a much greater employer. 

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor recently supported cutting ‘red tape’ (ie environmental and labour regulations) for new oil and gas projects, because, he argued “since coming to office, Labor and the unions have done everything possible to kill off investment and jobs in the sector.”

Taylor shouldn’t worry too much, firstly the Albanese government has continued to green-light fossil fuel projects, despite all science being clear that to reduce the impacts of climate change we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and stop opening new coal and gas mines. Secondly, the fossil-fuel sector employs relatively few people and the ‘jobs created’ by new fossil-fuel projects are vastly overstated.

In the wake of the Matilda’s recent success, it’s worth remembering that their sector of employment (sports and recreation activities) employs over 4 times as many people as coal mining and over 7 times as many as oil and gas extraction. Even if you combine these sectors and add the “exploration and other support services” sector, which is extremely generous as this includes employment related to non-fossil fuel mining such as iron, there are still many more people employed by sports and recreation.

Fossil-fuel companies and lobbyist usually inflate their influence by calculating a huge number of ‘indirect’ or ‘downstream’ jobs created from existing and future projects.

The use of these “employment multipliers” is, however, often misleading. They allow for double counting: each industry can claim responsibility for its own direct employees as well as ‘indirect’ jobs in other industries, meaning the aggregate number of jobs ‘created’ by all industries exceeds the number of total jobs (and even the total number of people!) in the country.

A far less murky solution is to simply rely on the verifiable number of people employed by a sector.

On this metric, Taylor should probably spend less time worried about gas expansion and more time supporting our Tillies, or almost any other industry for that matter.

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