How the Pilbara is sustaining a growing population and workforce

The Pilbara is buzzing with economic opportunities.  It’s a socially inclusive region that covers over 500,000 square kilometres in Western Australia – one of the state’s most ancient natural landscapes.

The Pilbara Development Commission is leading the charge to development the region’s economic base, improve social infrastructure, and sustain a rapidly growing population.newman_pilbara_western_australia

The New Pilbara

Work, live, visit or invest.  The new Pilbara is a place for everyone.  And it’s no wonder the population is rapidly increasing.  Recent ABS numbers suggest that Pilbara is growing into a ‘young, cosmopolitan’, region attracting 20-44 year olds.

Recently, the ‘New Pilbara’, an economic development conference, was hosted by the Pilbara Regional Chambers of Commerce, featuring emerging industries that will bring sustained economic growth across the Pilbara.  This is extremely important for the region, as there’s a serious lack of retail in the area.

So, you’ve got lots of young people with disposable income, and not enough places for these locals to spend their money.

The conference blended business, politics and industry to place the region in the best possible space to leverage opportunities for growth and diversification driven by the Pilbara Cities Initiative.

Pilbara Development Commission Chief Executive Officer, Terry Hill, believes it’s Pilbara’s time to really shine.

“The iron ore and petroleum sectors will undoubtedly remain the backbone of the region’s economy as the largest provider of local employment and investment.  However, there are opportunities for the Pilbara to become a global leader in mining innovation and technology, while demand for new minerals, such as lithium, are also bringing diversity to the region’s rich minerals and energy portfolio,” Mr Hill said.

The Pilbara Regional Council is another of the bodies driving change in the region.  Some of the projects they’re current projects include a mountain bike master plan, a quarterly regional training calendar, and digital mobile engagement strategies to showcase the region.

There’s also the Pilbara Enterprise Zone – a world-class investment destination.  The Zone aims to create a long-term, competitive environment for domestic and international investments, and to strengthen the capacity of the entire Pilbara region.

This is consistent with the Federal Government’s vision for the development of Northern Australia, and central to the continuing development of the State of Western Australia.

One of the strongest labour markets in Australia

Pilbara boasts low levels of unemployment over the past two years.  As it stands, the region’s unemployment rate is just 3.1%.  Indigenous Australians make up 12% of the population – compare this to Perth’s 6.3%.  Accounting for 30% of all Australia’s oil, gas and mining resources, it’s a booming economy.

The current population is 67,000, which is expected to nearly double to 140,000 by 2035.  This is in line with State Government of Western Australia’s Royalties for Regions program – who invested $1.7 billion into Pilbara Cities. 

The investment has five objectives for the region:

  1. Retain and build the benefits of regional communities.
  2. Support improved, relevant and accessible local services.
  3. Enable communities to deliver a sustainable economic and social future.
  4. Assist regional communities to prosper through increased employment, business and industry development opportunities.
  5. Increase capacity for local strategic planning and decision-making.

There are workforce issues still to overcome

While the Pilbara region is making progress in leaps and bounds, there are regional workforce challenges.

Staff retention and immigration are two major issues that the region faces.  There are pockets in areas such as Port Headland with higher unemployment figures.  Many of these people are under 30 – so there’s a challenge for employers to better connect with youth.

457 visa numbers are down too – by 42.3%, in fact.

One fabrication company servicing the Pilbara area invested in training and development for local workers, including Indigenous people. The 457 program assisted the company to grow while building a culturally diverse and inclusive workforce.

The Pilbara Regional Council has taken notice and has formally applied for the visa to allow small businesses to employ more foreign workers.  The aim of this is to fill job shortages and overcome ongoing retention issues.

If you would like to know more about improving your regional workforce to boost growth, please contact Wendy Perry at

December 2016


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