Australia’s Changing Industry Structure

Australia’s industry structure has undergone fundamental changes in recent decades, moving from an economy that was highly dependent on agricultural produce and manufactured goods, to today’s economy where service based industries are increasingly important for employment.

Infographic shows that Australia’s largest employing industry in 1988 was Manufacturing, and in 2018 it is Health Care and Social Assistance.

Three decades ago, Manufacturing was the largest employing industry in Australia, accounting for 15% of total employment. Employment in this industry, however, has fallen over the past 30 years, during which time most other industries have had rising employment. Today, Manufacturing is the sixth largest industry and accounts for 8% of total employment.

The decline in Manufacturing employment has been caused by many factors, including increased competition from overseas manufacturers who often have lower production costs.

People are also less likely to be employed in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing than they were 30 years ago. In 1988, 6% of the workforce was employed in this industry, compared with 3% in 2018. This has been due to a combination of factors, including technology and automation. Nonetheless, this industry continues to employ more than 325,000 workers, particularly in regional areas.

Share of total employment, 2018 and 1988 (%)

Industry20181988
Health Care and Social Assistance138
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services95
Manufacturing815
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing36

The importance of the services sector to the economy has expanded rapidly in recent years, offsetting the falls in other industries. Today, more than three in every four Australian workers are employed in a service industry. Service industries can be considered to include all industries besides Manufacturing; Construction; Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing; Mining; and Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services, although, even within these industries, there are service components.

Services and non-services industries employment, 1988 to 2018, indexed (Nov 1988 = 100)

DateServicesNon-Services
Nov-88100100
May-89102.5565102.5535
Aug-89104.0411102.7723
Nov-89105.4777102.3162
Feb-90106.5362101.658
May-90106.9913101.1144
Aug-90106.9717100.4089
Nov-90106.676798.9924
Feb-91106.435196.74239
May-91106.422894.33317
Aug-91106.514392.51402
Nov-91106.631291.59006
Feb-92106.839591.25708
May-92106.95391.14646
Aug-92106.688491.09943
Nov-92106.183391.18652
Feb-93105.872691.35055
May-93106.059591.63909
Aug-93106.828191.97072
Nov-93107.818892.32184
Feb-94108.889992.91349
May-9411093.60881
Aug-94111.142294.22294
Nov-94112.467694.61577
Feb-95113.884994.6695
May-95115.302794.68326
Aug-95116.518194.77729
Nov-95117.344194.86504
Feb-96117.753694.91232
May-96117.955994.63817
Aug-96118.163694.34093
Nov-96118.435194.22776
Feb-97118.684694.19055
May-97119.018794.28091
Aug-97119.507494.53596
Nov-97120.222194.7888
Feb-98121.00895.00161
May-98121.747394.83692
Aug-98122.454194.31892
Nov-98123.190893.87819
Feb-99123.859993.92199
May-99124.385794.75013
Aug-99124.735696.02483
Nov-99125.114697.11175
Feb-00126.076599.33054
May-00126.574599.64676
Aug-00127.90799.18928
Nov-00129.193298.08261
Feb-01130.153396.90194
May-01130.813696.50492
Aug-01131.365797.04805
Nov-01131.767797.97411
Feb-02132.337498.51376
May-02133.198298.46228
Aug-02134.421598.10177
Nov-02135.878797.93479
Feb-03137.023498.10718
May-03137.566898.41058
Aug-03137.909798.55267
Nov-03138.219598.85811
Feb-04138.47999.53134
May-04138.8655100.397
Aug-04139.7783101.2898
Nov-04141.3297101.984
Feb-05143.2526102.5695
May-05144.8425103.15
Aug-05145.6691103.6473
Nov-05146.1219104.0207
Feb-06146.8157104.3421
May-06148.0462104.8412
Aug-06149.4299105.7252
Nov-06150.6203106.653
Feb-07151.7577107.1873
May-07153.0872107.3361
Aug-07154.4314107.9455
Nov-07155.4767109.3887
Feb-08156.3751111.2042
May-08157.099112.6508
Aug-08157.5664113.211
Nov-08158.0007112.7957
Feb-09158.3336111.9554
May-09158.8302110.9769
Aug-09159.6787110.3687
Nov-09160.5687110.3552
Feb-10161.4575110.9819
May-10162.3514112.0922
Aug-10163.5133112.8497
Nov-10164.8426112.8504
Feb-11165.9517112.3378
May-11166.7258111.832
Aug-11167.0951111.916
Nov-11167.3283112.4473
Feb-12167.7359112.8952
May-12168.5369112.8596
Aug-12169.8186112.2041
Nov-12171.1149111.5249
Feb-13171.9938111.0817
May-13172.2711111.1848
Aug-13172.0748111.7365
Nov-13172.0276112.3588
Feb-14172.3605112.759
May-14172.9498112.7816
Aug-14173.8318112.3135
Nov-14175.1832111.5249
Feb-15176.953110.593
May-15178.9159109.9425
Aug-15180.6017109.8039
Nov-15181.8421110.0112
Feb-16182.7214110.2417
May-16183.1228110.4941
Aug-16183.3107110.8544
Nov-16183.6847111.5017
Feb-17184.6153112.5348
May-17186.088113.6688
Aug-17187.5917114.973
Nov-17188.5872116.6216
Feb-18189.1503118.5341
May-18189.8782120.1253
Aug-18191.1363121.0706
Nov-18192.7733121.4964

Much of the growth in the services sector has been driven by Health Care and Social Assistance. With Australia’s growing and ageing population requiring more care, and the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, this is expected to continue.

Professional, Scientific and Technical Services has also recorded strong employment growth and has almost doubled its share of employment over the past 30 years (from 5% to 9%).

Selected industries employment, 1988 to 2018, indexed (Nov 1988 = 100)

DateProfessional, Scientific and Technical ServicesHealth Care and Social AssistanceEducation and TrainingConstructionManufacturingAgriculture, Forestry and Fishing
Nov-88100100100100100100
May-89101.9062101.6596102.8737106.1939102.299498.12984
Aug-89104.8752101.0632105.3033107.787102.442197.02508
Nov-89107.6398100.4331107.9023108.1907101.715596.95734
Feb-90108.4888101.0448109.7168107.4143100.775898.18256
May-90107.6872102.8971110.2236106.197799.90743100.1068
Aug-90107.2067104.8105109.9427105.022998.82465101.2594
Nov-90108.3347106.0338109.5961103.345997.06386101.0807
Feb-91110.3925106.7277109.6129100.625294.8069799.28801
May-91111.7377107.7752109.794897.3166992.8983996.55779
Aug-91112.1801109.1615110.067794.4190391.8979593.50645
Nov-91113.0882110.0049110.755592.5550291.7166790.88093
Feb-92114.8673109.8727112.048691.8169591.8191588.94296
May-92116.5505109.6317113.096591.8711891.8128288.11664
Aug-92115.5053109.2182113.55392.4173791.6806788.36767
Nov-92111.2496108.2284113.684893.4833191.471689.31487
Feb-93106.8278107.2596114.159995.0516990.971390.21173
May-93105.0264107.3244115.168996.7140890.4813490.93902
Aug-93107.3564108.7879116.002997.9787290.4204491.08349
Nov-93111.906110.8212115.961198.4048591.2111690.55731
Feb-94116.5352111.8606115.406298.759492.6134990.07861
May-94120.8611111.7109114.896599.841193.9406589.52578
Aug-94124.3902111.2628114.9401101.566394.6571489.36881
Nov-94127.9619111.5951115.7068103.697294.7857289.03837
Feb-95132.0583113.4389117.0483105.398694.6149288.21819
May-95136.2137115.6552118.929106.185194.3139688.50533
Aug-95140.0947117.0076120.9231106.530293.8647589.997
Nov-95143.1851117.6704122.4106106.552193.4328791.91503
Feb-96145.4347118.2574122.9213106.463693.217893.59341
May-96146.9662119.2489122.7414105.982193.3102593.56951
Aug-96147.8555120.1167122.3413104.887493.8277392.95844
Nov-96148.8163119.9869122.0149103.706494.4332392.7825
Feb-97150.6878119.7957121.5878102.529495.0253392.79634
May-97153.6269120.596121.162101.901995.3950893.46813
Aug-97156.9232122.4879121.0949102.621195.3902394.40133
Nov-97159.757124.6574121.6633104.602894.6871195.21505
Feb-98161.26125.9422122.48107.028393.5238395.85979
May-98161.9696126.3949123.2781108.613292.3441795.25196
Aug-98162.5467126.7752124.267108.939391.4106494.21912
Nov-98162.7599127.001125.8953108.916590.6817494.36484
Feb-99162.4557126.553127.7546110.137989.9234595.82336
May-99162.2521125.8142128.9933113.433789.382797.7551
Aug-99162.8402125.6195128.9839117.6389.3335199.20062
Nov-99164.1551126.8946128.6256120.899789.7069399.67275
Feb-00165.8213130.032126.9652122.390693.3397899.72108
May-00168.3034132.1197128.2452122.282994.1009499.59661
Aug-00172.3549133.5002129.4031120.768794.2659498.74
Nov-00177.217135.3325129.812118.177893.9309797.29343
Feb-01179.7679137.3091130.0808115.830992.9615796.57707
May-01177.7761139.0829131.3785115.435591.8164397.63219
Aug-01173.3949140.231133.5027117.480790.8617999.87276
Nov-01170.8152140.7401135.2191120.694790.49699101.3168
Feb-02172.3702141.7188136.3076123.036890.99061100.0883
May-02175.2948143.8884137.0661123.725792.1363995.95351
Aug-02176.4909145.8892138.401123.548793.4656489.99578
Nov-02176.368146.5737140.1707124.420494.1952384.73449
Feb-03176.9657145.2744141.804127.12993.6146582.47904
May-03179.0722143.6786143.1845130.707591.9122283.43648
Aug-03181.5068144.4954144.2823133.50590.0856785.05244
Nov-03182.1183147.0741144.8646135.395489.318285.39426
Feb-04181.3244149.6592144.9431137.046290.0026284.09777
May-04181.0342151.1578144.1703139.134991.3459782.20926
Aug-04182.7923151.9984142.7567141.686692.2612481.2305
Nov-04187.1581152.7381141.4049144.329692.014781.62667
Feb-05192.3667154.0371141.7234147.036791.0131582.26575
May-05197.5171155.4237144.4608149.479190.1025781.94091
Aug-05201.9027157.2097148.6977151.360789.611180.87908
Nov-05205.3758159.7949151.867152.76189.3365679.89618
Feb-06208.923162.9698152.0336154.136889.1297879.25748
May-06213.0481165.4891150.4586156.762688.8485278.88622
Aug-06215.3681166.6099149.5925160.808188.5616978.94004
Nov-06215.1236166.8528150.9525164.398488.6565479.1214
Feb-07214.801167.4545153.2585165.745289.0934979.4881
May-07216.6243168.704154.8932164.877589.8448279.56082
Aug-07221.5592170.2318156.5246165.087990.8962979.38526
Nov-07226.8691171.9551159.2082167.500992.1077678.97939
Feb-08229.3736173.1051162.9038171.001792.9932478.55465
May-08229.4378173.4864165.1931173.814892.8968878.72938
Aug-08227.5514174.1121164.8746175.019791.5784480.07929
Nov-08225.38177.3006163.3621175.103489.7549781.10077
Feb-09224.5526182.6918162.4039174.851388.3340881.22608
May-09226.3154187.164163.4911174.159987.5538280.46836
Aug-09232.502188.4465165.9701173.526987.2185279.64037
Nov-09240.8068187.7217168.1812173.383686.7837779.75719
Feb-10246.4672188.5636170.1424173.925386.2675281.0479
May-10247.5458192.6694171.8678175.228285.9788682.61133
Aug-10246.6428197.8472173.0344176.044485.9556482.4893
Nov-10246.6031200.8178173.5271176.572185.8382279.63398
Feb-11247.6352201.7125173.0034178.012985.0582775.25734
May-11248.9258203.3563172.5065179.782683.6294572.11953
Aug-11250.2619206.7898172.536180.475482.6066571.52221
Nov-11252.5501209.7294173.5075179.263282.3098473.16913
Feb-12256.5204211.1281175.5003175.865382.7170475.10646
May-12261.2972211.8973178.1053172.762183.3295475.17178
Aug-12265.4446213.6598180.6561172.126483.2383772.78247
Nov-12266.7481215.887182.8961174.243882.4206769.86142
Feb-13266.1897216.6986183.8621177.251781.1984267.87924
May-13264.7788217.1469183.5597178.266780.5680368.16585
Aug-13263.3592218.4091182.5435177.399880.9275669.8377
Nov-13263.8769219.8153182.4333176.838181.4159271.96791
Feb-14266.3183220.3309183.7323178.135681.3201373.77095
May-14269.6274219.274184.5654181.315180.8045774.41687
Aug-14273.3132219.5085185.0137183.864980.2753974.34977
Nov-14278.6987223.1023185.746184.17780.202573.56902
Feb-15285.8377228.9511187.5544182.997480.0331372.05879
May-15292.2663235.3391189.9311182.429779.1682271.03418
Aug-15295.8449239.6851190.8501183.512177.9826371.30781
Nov-15296.8307242.3811190.2405185.285377.1698372.65949
Feb-16297.8983243.8289190.0358186.316377.3102273.54497
May-16299.1478244.0737191.7328186.761678.3484972.48228
Aug-16299.2616244.2695195.2606187.702579.3608870.25308
Nov-16297.7523245.8263198.6109190.477179.6668768.57603
Feb-17294.5729250.5152201.4427195.089279.1070569.36222
May-17292.8767257.0373204.3405200.33978.0056771.99969
Aug-17294.0519262.3129207.3028205.108177.4242474.37378
Nov-17297.1954265.0525208.8501208.360178.2350275.41107
Feb-18301.8819265.3275207.8693210.170980.4372575.24241
May-18306.6256265.0912206.6205210.279582.6806975.06297
Aug-18311.1956265.4375207.5759208.957784.1013575.43775
Nov-18315.0334266.9511211.2641207.35384.7658675.68702

Sources: ABS, Labour Force (trend)