If you feel as though it’s taking longer than ever to get to work, you’re not imagining it. New data compiled in the latest annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, which follows the lives of more than 17,000 Australians each year, shows that, in 2017, the average time spent commuting was 4.5 hours a week. This reflects a growth of 23 per cent since 2002, with those living and working in mainland capital cities the most affected.
In news that surprises almost no one, Sydney’s commute times are the worst, with harbour city residents spending an average of 71 minutes a day travelling to and from work. That’s up from 61 minutes in 2002. Melbourne isn’t too far behind, with workers spending around 65 minutes a day commuting – up 12 per cent from 59 minutes in 2002.
Brisbane has experienced the biggest growth of all, with a 45 per cent rise in travel time. In 2002, it took workers an average of 46 minutes to get to and from work each day; now it’s more like 67. Adelaide’s growth hasn’t been quite so steep, but workers do now spend 56 minutes a day commuting, up from 45. And Perth’s growth has been slight – residents spend 59 minutes a day travelling, up from 50.
The HILDA report also found that those with the longest commute are the most dissatisfied with their jobs.
“Those who spend a long time getting to and from work each day are more likely to be dissatisfied with their job overall, as well as with their working hours, flexibility to balance work and non-work commitments, and salaries,” the report says. “In addition, people who have a longer daily commute are more likely to expect to leave their jobs in the next 12 months than those who spend less time getting to and from work.”
It also indicates that workers in low-skilled jobs are likely to spend less time commuting to work than those in highly skilled professions. That said, people in those more highly skilled jobs report greater job satisfaction than those with similar travel times in unskilled positions, despite travelling longer to get to work – likely owing to higher earnings and better working conditions.
A spokesperson from RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research told the ABC that this increase is due to infrastructure not keeping pace with population growth, particularly on the outer edges of big cities. Inflation in house prices has also been implicated, with people moving further from city centres in search of affordable housing, lengthening their commutes. The report shows that only 28 per cent of workers live and work in the same postcode, while around 60 per cent of workers live between one and 29 kilometres from their place of work. Commute times mostly increased in proportion with the distance between home and workplace.
The research also found that almost 21 per cent of men but less than 16 per cent of women have daily commutes of two hours or more. Men with children experienced longer commutes than those without, while women with children actually see a decrease in travel time.
Read the rest of the report here.