CBD and Harbour

The workforce of the CBD and Harbour area is dominated by workers in finance and financial services. Workers tend to have high personal incomes, with a large proportion choosing to live in the City of Sydney.

The central location and high public transport access reduces car dependence of workers as they can rely on multiple forms of public transport. Other big employers include professional and business services, and retail and personal services.

The area includes significant institutions and tourist precincts, such as the Opera House, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, The Rocks and Walsh Bay, the Domain and Hyde Park, Art Gallery of NSW and Government House. It is little surprise then that there are more than 10,000 hotel and serviced-apartment rooms in the CBD and Harbour area. Areas of high commercial density include Darling Park and the Citibank building on Park Street and Martin Place.

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Employment by industry

Table 9 summarises employment by city-based industry sector in the city centre in 2012. It shows that the sectors creating the most employment are the finance and financial services sector and the professional and business services sector, which combined employ over 60% of the workforce.

The diversity of the industry mix is demonstrated by the fact that 16 of the 19 industry sectors employ more than 1,000 workers and 8 industry sectors employ more than 10,000 workers. 

Table 9 – Employment by City-Based Industry Sector, 2012

Sector Employment % of Total Employment
Community 553 0.2%
Creative Industries 10,688 4.7%
Finance & Financial Services 83,143 36.6%
Food & Drink 11,639 5.1%
Government 12,163 5.4%
Health 3,524 1.6%
Higher Education & Research 3,735 1.6%
ICT 10,368 4.6%
Life Science (Bio-Tech) 1,029 0.5%
Manufacturing 1,057 0.5%
Motor Vehicle 72 0.0%
Natural Resource-Based Industries 852 0.4%
Professional & Business Services 53,356 23.5%
Property Development & Operation 5,474 2.4%
Retail & Personal Services 10,282 4.5%
Social Capital 2,375 1.0%
Tourist, Cultural & Leisure 11,732 5.2%
Transport & Logistics 2,492 1.1%
Utilities 1,620 0.7%
Other 818 0.4%
Total 226,972 100.0%

Source: Floor Space and Employment Survey, 2012 – City of Sydney

Income of workers

Journey to Work data produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics can be analysed to show the annual personal income of workers.

Due to the high proportion of white-collar workers in finance and financial services, and professional and business services, average incomes are very high with 35% of the workforce having personal incomes in the highest bracket of more than $104,000 per year.

This is significantly above the City of Sydney local area average of 27% and the Metro Sydney average of 14%.

Accordingly, there is a smaller proportion of workers in the lower personal income brackets.

Chart 5  – Workers' Personal Income (Annual)

Chart 5  – Workers' Personal Income (Annual)Source: Census of Population and Housing, 2011, ABS

Workers’ place of residence

Chart 6 shows the top 10 local council areas of residence for workers in the CBD and Harbour area. This shows that the largest proportion of workers (12%) also lived within the City of Sydney. However, unlike most other areas, 4 of the top 10 council areas of residence for workers were located on Sydney’s North Shore, accounting for 16% of workers. The high average incomes of workers allow for them to live in such areas with typically higher house prices and cost of living.

Other significant council areas of residence include Randwick, where 5% of workers resided, and Sutherland Shire, where 4% of workers resided.

Chart 6 – Workers’ LGA of Residence (Top 10), 2011

Chart 6 – Workers’ LGA of Residence (Top 10), 2011 

Workers’ mode of transport

Journey to Work data can also be used to show the modes of transport used by workers based in CBD and Harbour, as displayed in Chart 7. Due to high access to public transport and the relative scarcity of parking, there is a very low dependence on cars with only 15% using them to get to work.

In contrast, there are high proportions of workers who use trains and buses to get to and from work, representing 35% and 22% of the worker population respectively. The location on the harbour foreshore also results in above-average ferry patronage for workers, with 3% using this mode of transport. Furthermore, the hubs and interchanges of public transport activity result in 16% of workers adopting multi-modal transportation.

Chart 7 – Worker Mode of Transport

Chart 7 – Worker Mode of Transport 

Location of workers

The density of employment throughout CBD and Harbour, illustrated in Figure 10, is largely reflective of the distribution of office floor space.

Office buildings typically have the highest employment densities due to the low workspace ratios and the sheer volume of floor space they provide.

The large area of low employment density shaded in white in the north-western corner of CBD and Harbour represents the Barangaroo site, which will have significant employment densities within the coming years as the high-rise office developments are completed.

The areas around Dawes and Millers points as well as The Rocks also have lower employment densities due to the presence of heritage buildings of lower density.

Figure 10 – Employment Density

Figure 10 – Employment Density 

What does this mean for my business?

As with local residents, local workers can be a key source of revenue for many businesses.

The presence of a very large worker population, with a large proportion of finance and professional service workers, provides opportunities to tap into a highly-paid workforce with a significant level of disposable income.

These workers are spread throughout the city centre providing significant opportunities for local businesses to benefit from their presence.

The types of businesses likely to benefit most are those who service the daytime population (for example, cafés, convenience stores, dry cleaners and so on) as well as those that provide after-hours destinations, including bars and restaurants.

From an employer’s perspective, the area’s central location and accessibility by public transport makes it a desirable location for workers of many demographics.


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