Local area overview and summary

Local area overview and summary

2017 survey results

The 2017 floor space and employment survey was the third full survey within the current City of Sydney local area boundaries. Previous surveys were undertaken in 2007 and 2012.

The fieldwork started in April 2017 and took around 10 months to complete. The 2017 results form the most comprehensive data set of all businesses, floor space, employment and capacity measures across the City of Sydney local area.

The local area covers 26.15km² and the estimated resident population was 233,177 at June 2017 (Source: Regional Population Growth, Australia 2017-18 cat. no. 3218.0, released 27 March 2019). The total employment count for the 2017 survey was 501,786 workers.

Total figures

In 2017, in the local area there were:

  • 26,203 buildings
  • 23,511 business establishments employing workers.

Key changes between 2012 & 2017 surveys

  • Total internal floor space increased by 2.68 million square metres (7.6% increase) to 37,944,887m².
  • The number of businesses employing workers in the city grew by 8.7% to 23,511 establishments.
  • The city accommodated 501,786 workers, an increase of 66,017 (15.1% increase) since 2012.
  • The total number of dwellings counted was 120,656 representing an increase of 18,246 dwellings (17.8% increase).
  • There were 20,372 hotel rooms (0.5% decrease), 5,800 serviced apartments (29.7% increase) and 7,719 backpacker beds (23.5% increase) counted. 


The professional and business services sector had the greatest number of business establishments across the local area in 2017 with 17.2% of all businesses. The retail and personal services sector contained 15.0% of all businesses.

The professional and business services sector also had the highest growth in the number of establishments with a net increase of 462 businesses. The finance and financial services sector grew by 459 businesses, and the food and drink sector grew by 457 businesses.

Small businesses (1–19 workers) accounted for 83.8% of all businesses, employing 23.2% of workers in the local area. Medium businesses (20–199 workers) accounted for 14.7% of all businesses, employing 34.7% of all workers, and large businesses (200+ workers) accounted for 1.5% of all businesses, employing 42.2% of all workers in the local area. 


There were an additional 66,017 workers, a 15.1% increase from 2012. The top 6 sectors by number of workers:  

City-based industry sector Workers
Finance and financial industries 115,693
Professional and business services 99,404
ICT 34,157
Government 34,125
Creative industries 33,027
Tourist, cultural and leisure 28,773 

The sector with the largest growth in worker numbers since 2012 was professional and business services which grew by 21,282 workers (27.2% increase). This was followed by finance and financial services, which grew by 16,005 (16.1% increase) and property development and operation which grew by 11,405 (122.7% increase), albeit from a low baseline.

The sector with the most significant decreases in employment between the 2012 and 2017 surveys was transport and logistics which decreased by 2,942 workers (17.6% decrease). This was followed by creative industries which decreased by 1,990 workers (5.7% decrease) and manufacturing which decreased by 1,893 workers (35.5% decrease).  These declines are consistent with the changes in development in the local area; including the movement of industries within these sectors out of the central Sydney area and the redevelopment of the Green Square precinct.

Floor area

In the 2017 survey business floor area increased by 4.5% to 17,195,132m² since the 2012 survey and accounted for 45.3% of the total floor area. The top 6 sectors by floor area:

City-based industry sector Floor area m²
Tourist, cultural and leisure
Professional and business services
Finance and financial services
Transport and logistics
Higher education and research
Creative industries 1,262,381

The largest growth sectors by floor space were tourist, cultural and leisure, which grew by 368,514m² (13.5% increase) and higher education and research 217,630m² (17.9% increase). The industries with the most significant decreases in floor area since the 2012 survey were manufacturing, with a decline of 145,366 (-43.5% decrease) and transport and logistics, which declined by 265,893m² (-14.3% decrease).

Space use

Residential space use had the largest growth of floor area across the local area with an additional 1,246,491m² (13.2% increase) between the 2012 and 2017 surveys. While office space use occupied the second largest proportion of overall floor area in the local area with 6,885,303m² (18.1%), the office category experienced a decrease in floor area of approximately 31,500m² since the 2012 survey.

Shop/showroom space accounted for 2.6% of the city's internal floor area, with a decrease in floor area of 4,816m² while restaurant/eating space made up 2.3% with an increase in floor area of 155,597m² between 2012 and 2017. Industrial space experienced the largest decrease of all space use divisions, with a reduction of 191,525m² (26.0% decrease) between 2012 and 2017.

In 2017 office space use employed the largest proportion of workers with 84.8% of total employment (425,339), followed by restaurant/eating (28,897, 5.8%) and shop/showroom (19,530, 3.9%).

Work space ratio

City-based industry sector

Work space ratios are calculated by dividing the total internal area (m²) by the total number of employees. The work space ratio for all industry sectors in the local area fell from 37.8m² to 34.3m² per worker between 2012 and 2017 (excluding households, redevelopment, vacant and ‘other’ sectors). The decrease of -3.5 indicates a tightening of work space ratios, or less space per worker.

The most intensive use of work space occurred in the finance and financial services sector, which had a work space ratio of 14.9m² per worker. The sector that experienced the largest decrease of work space ratio was the property development and operation sector, with a decrease of 31.1% since 2012.

Space use

The average work space ratio for partitioned and open plan offices across the local area contracted to 10.1m² (from 13.1m²) per worker, a 22.9% decrease between 2012 and 2017 indicating a continued tightening of floor area per worker.


Housing, pipeline development and forecasts can be found on the City Monitors page.

Shapefiles with key survey data are available for download through the City’s open data portal. Search for ‘Floor Space and Employment Survey’ and download data from the 2007, 2012 and 2017 surveys.

To explore the survey data in an interactive map, launch the web application below.

Employment in the city map
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Floor Space and Employment Survey 2017 Excel 949.6 KB Download

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Last updated: Wednesday, 17 April 2019