CBD and Harbour

CBD and Harbour has the smallest population of all 10 areas within the City of Sydney, due to the dominance of commercial land uses in the area.

The residents of the area are predominantly white-collar workers with high levels of disposable income.

The residents choose to live in an inner city location to live close to work and for the high amenity provided by such a central location. 

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Recent population growth

The population of CBD and Harbour was estimated to be just under 8,500 residents in 2014, making it the smallest village grouping by population size. This is largely a result of the area being a commercial precinct predominantly comprised of office buildings rather than residential buildings. As shown in Chart 2, the population increased only marginally between 2011 and 2014, and was actually lower than the 2006 level.

Chart 2 – Estimated Resident Population

Chart 2 – Estimated Resident Population 

The small resident population of the area is highlighted in Figure 3, with a lack of significant population density across most of CBD and Harbour. The highest population densities are in the south near Hyde Park and between Kent Street and Hickson Road in the north-west quadrant, both the locations of high-rise residential buildings. Areas of moderate population density are primarily seen in areas such as Darling Harbour, Millers Point, Walsh Bay, The Rocks and Circular Quay.

Figure 3 – Population Density, 2011

Chart 1


The population of the area is predominantly comprised of professionals who choose to live close to their place of work in the city. Table 1 summarises some of the key demographic characteristics of residents, from which the following key points are noted:

  • The median household income is a notable 20% above the City of Sydney local area median and also significantly above the Metro Sydney median, highlighting the strong presence of highly paid professionals residing within the area.
  • The average age is 7.8% above the Metro average, with residents tending to be professionals in the later stages of their career.
  • There is a high proportion of residents born overseas (58%), accenting the attraction for international professionals.
  • The average household size is small, with 45% of residents living alone.
  • The education level of residents is quite high, with 56% of residents over 15 years old having a bachelor’s degree or higher, 8 percentage points above the City of Sydney local area average.
  • There is a low proportion of family households within the area, with the majority of households being either single households (45%) or couples with no kids (33%).

Table 1 – Key Demographic Indicators, 2011

CBD & Harbour City of Sydney Metro Sydney
Median Household Income $101,679 $84,941 $75,451
Av. Age 40.0 36.1 37.1
Av. Household Size 1.80 1.95 2.69
% White Collar Workers 92% 87% 74%
% Born Overseas 58% 49% 36%
Bachelor Degree or Higher* 56% 48% 27%
Studying at University/TAFE 12% 17% 8%
Housing Status      
Owner 18% 14% 31%
Purchaser 15% 24% 36%
Renter - Public 10% 10% 5%
Renter - Private 56% 51% 27%
Household Structure      
Couples with No Kids 32% 28% 24%
Families (inc single parent) 15% 18% 49%
Singles 45% 40% 23%
Groups 8% 14% 4%
*Proportion of population over 15 years old
Source: Census of Population and Housing, 2011 – ABS

Chart 3 – Household Income Distribution, 2011

Chart 3 – Household Income Distribution, 2011

Chart 3 shows the household income distribution for CBD and Harbour and compares this to the distribution across the City of Sydney local area and the Metro Sydney region. Reflective of the high proportion of professionals and white-collar workers residing within the city centre, there is a high proportion of households with incomes over $208,000 (11%), well above the City of Sydney local area and Metro Sydney averages. There is also a high proportion of households with incomes of $104,000-$156,000 (28%) compared to the benchmark regions.

Figure 4 shows average household income by block across CBD and Harbour. The areas of highest incomes are in the more sought-after areas such as Millers Point/Walsh Bay, Circular Quay, The Rocks, Darling Harbour and the area to the west of Hyde Park along King, Market and Park streets.

Figure 4 – Average Household Income, 2011

  Figure 4 – Average Household Income, 2011

Resident retail spending

Chart 4 presents the estimated retail spending per capita for CBD and Harbour residents in 2012 based on Marketinfo modelling. It shows that residents have a higher retail spend per capita across all categories. This comes as a result of the high proportion of high income workers living in the area. The low proportion of family households further increases the disposable incomes of residents.

The food retail category represents spending on groceries and other supermarket-type goods, on which residents spent an estimated $6,070 per capita in 2012, significantly above the City of Sydney local area and Metro Sydney benchmarks. The food catering category, which includes restaurants and take-away food, was also significantly above average at $3,568.

Residents of CBD and Harbour also spend a significant amount on the leisure category, a more discretionary class of retail spending which is often correlated with higher disposable incomes.

Chart 4 – Resident Retail Spending Per Capita, 2012

Chart 4 – Resident Retail Spending Per Capita, 2012

What does this mean for my business?

The local resident population is an important consideration for many local business owners. For many retailers and hospitality businesses, local residents are a core part of their market and a key source of repeat business. For both retail and non-retail businesses, local residents may comprise a significant portion of their workforce. Developing a profile of potential customers (or workforce) can assist in selecting an optimal location and/or developing an effective business plan.

CBD and Harbour is something of a special case in this regard. Being located in the retail core of Sydney, local businesses tend to be much less reliant on local residents than in other areas.  

The size of other markets, including the office worker market and tourist market, tend to overshadow the contribution of residents in this area. However this is not to say that local residents should be ignored as a market segment. The analysis in this section shows that they have significant spending power, and can make a significant contribution to some businesses. 


This information has been compiled from various sources. The publisher and contributors accept no responsibility for any injury, loss or damage arising from the use, error or omissions therein. While all care is taken to ensure a high degree of accuracy, users are invited to notify the City of Sydney of any discrepancies. No part of this information, including maps or data, may be reproduced without written permission.

Last updated: Tuesday, 16 June 2015