Public Services in the Hunter

An Engine of Economic and Social Prosperity
by Jim Stanford

The provision of essential public services generates extraordinary and far-reaching economic and social benefits for the Hunter region. A new report prepared by the Centre for Future Work documents the scale of these benefits for workers, families and communities across the Hunter. The fact sheets provide a portrait of the different ways public services build a stronger economy, strong communities, and better lives.

State-funded programs account for the lion’s share of public service jobs in the Hunter region: over 80% in total (in health care, education, state government, transport, first responders, social services, and more). That means a strong and stable commitment by state government to funding these services will be essential for the Hunter to continue reaping these economic and social benefits.

Major findings of the report include:

  • Four sectors in which public provision is especially important (including health care, education, public administration and safety, and transportation) account for 35% of total Hunter region employment, and 85% of net job growth, in the last 5 years.
  • State-funded services alone account for almost 30,000 direct full-time equivalent (FTE) positions in the Hunter region, making this sector the largest single employer in the region. Those services add over $3 billion per year to regional GDP.
  • Combined wages and salaries for state public sector workers in the Hunter total $2.65 billion per year – constituting an enormous injection of household income and spending power into the regional economy.
  • State-funded service providers in the Hunter (including hospitals and schools) purchase some $1.3 billion worth of “upstream” inputs, materials, supplies, and services from private businesses in the public sector supply chain.
  • Consumer spending by state public service workers in the Hunter (and those in the supply chain) adds $1.75 billion to the sales of consumer goods and services businesses, most of them located right in this region.
  • For every 10 direct jobs in state-funded public services, there are another 5 indirect jobs in upstream supply chain and downstream consumer industries. In total, 45,000 regional jobs (public and private) depend on continued provision of high-quality state public services.
  • Public sector jobs are an especially important source of work and income for women. Women account for 64% of jobs in major Hunter public sector industries. The gender wage gap in public services is much smaller (12% for full-time ordinary earnings) than in the private sector.
  • Public services are especially important in regional areas, due to dispersed and older populations; greater distances between communities; and limited alternative employment opportunities. State service jobs (FTEs) make up 11.4% of all employment in the Hunter, 2 percentage points more than in Sydney.

There is an unfortunate tendency in politics to view public services as merely a cost item on a government budget. But in fact they are a vital driver of economic growth and job-creation.

State-funded public services also support tens of thousands of private sector jobs in the Hunter, both upstream in the supply chain and downstream through consumer goods and service sectors. It is vital to the prosperity of the whole region that these services are supported and well-funded.

International evidence indicates that quality of life considerations (including community safety, housing, transportation, and culture and recreation) are increasingly vital in attracting new business investment to a region. This requires continued public fiscal support for top-quality public services.

Please see the full set of fact sheets, Public Services in the Hunter: An Engine of Economics and Social Prosperity, prepared by Jim Stanford below. The fact sheets were commissioned by Hunter Workers.

Full report