Local Employment and Economic Development (LEED Programme)

Workshop: New sources of growth for dynamic local labour markets - Policies and strategies in Western Sydney and beyond (Sydney, Australia)


21-22 August 2013, Sydney, Australia

This workshop is organised by the Urban Research Centre, University of Western Sydney within the framework of the
OECD LEED project on local economic strategies for shrinking and ageing labour markets




Regions facing demographic change are the laboratories of future labor market challenges for the whole country.  Anticipating these challenges can bring significant advantages to a region to keep the competitiveness of firms, particularly of local SMEs,  up to speed with global developments. Western Sydney, though not older is ageing at a faster pace than the national average (25.9% persons 50+ in 2001 rising to 27.3% in 2010 compared to the national average of 50+ 30.5% in 2001 rising to 32.3% in 2011).This will have implications for the composition and performance of the workforce in the labour market. In addition, consistent higher unemployment than the national average (5.5% in 2001 and 6.8% in 2010 – compared to the national average of 5.1% in 2001 and 5.5% in 2010) are posing complex challenges for economic development and labour market transition. A particular challenge is youth unemployment: in 2012, Western Sydney had a youth unemployment rate of 17.9% , compared to the New South Wales rate of 15.3%.

But there are  new opportunities to be found in the development of the green economy, the silver economy (senior entrepreneurship and product-service ecology for seniors) and the white economy (active ageing approaches and new technologies for care of the elderly). The workshop will contribute to identify the main issues and proposals for policy development and initiatives to address local and thus national labor market challenges. Local activities, initiatives, and strategies are of particular importance for the development of proposals for sustainable and resilient communities and in coordination with national goals.


DAY 1 - Morning Session: New Sources of growth in changing labour markets and sustainable communities

The complexity of urban-rural change, both expansion and shrinkage is posing numerous challenges to job creation and sustainable development agendas. Strategic solutions cannot be based on addressing one factor alone but should take into account the interplay of the elements within a particular local area of development (urban or rural). Immigrants and new comers to the labour market face skills challenges that can limit their potential to contribute to economic growth in the region. To curb this potentially self-re-enforcing process, public policy may help by encouraging new sources of economic growth that increase employment opportunities and foster absortion capacity for those new to the labour market. These policies for new sources of economic growth could (1) encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment, (2) attract emerging industry sectors to the region, (3) develop a silver, white or green economy, (4) increase the spin-off of high-tech firms from universities at newly built campuses, (5) increase employment in higher education by attracting foreign students to the region, or (6) create new cross sectoral alliances/businesses for modern work-ecologies.

Questions for discussion:

  • Which are the opportunities for new sources of economic growth for regions?

  • Which initiatives and strategies (including planning strategies) could facilitate entrepreneurship or self-employment?

  • Which social/cross sectoral innovations can strengthen the competitiveness of the region? How can we support the opportunities offered by an aging population?

>DAY 1 - Afternoon Session: International experiences of promoting resilience whern confronting demographic challenges

Demographic change is affecting all OECD member countries and developing economies. Fertility rates are falling in many although these have picked up again in some of the richest countries, the elderly population is increasing, and youth unemployment is rising in many places. Demographic change is today one of the key challenges for labour markets. Although the potential for further employment growth beyond the levels of pre-crisis is uncertain in many OECD countries in the short term, in the near future shortages are expected due to a declining and ageing labour force.  Regions in transition face an important dilemma. On the one hand productivity will become the main engine of economic growth. On the other hand regions in transition face large shares of older people that may not be active in the labour market or unable to participate in productive work, i.e. with physical and mental disabilities. This raises the question of how to invest in future employment growth; at the same time perspectives must be offered to older and vulnerable groups on the regional labour market, now and in the near future.


Questions for discussion:

  • What are the challenges faced by the labour market due to demographic change for current and future generations? What are the implications for young people today and tomorrow? What lessons can be extracted for growing and shrinking regions and cities and their regeneration strategies? What makes resilient regions resilient?

  • What are the causes and consequences of early losses from the labour market? How can we integrate the skills from newcomers and built the new skils needed? 

  • What are the most effective methods and tools to maintain older, local youth and other vulnerable people in the labour market in relation to the expected demographic change? Are there best practices from firms (e.g. HR counseling services) or public (national, regional, local) support services that have approaches of working to counter the impact of demographic change? What are the practices that are not considered as good incentives that prevent actors from maintaining older people in the labour market?

DAY 2 Morning Session:  Re-positioning regions with skills, employment and entrepreneurship

Regional specialization may require a better match of skills of the regional labour force on one side, and the skills required by the employers on the other side. Skill mismatch may have different causes: low-skilled people without relevant competences for the modern labour market, young people not choosing fields of study that are needed by firms, the competences of older workers that are  not  up-to-date or their skills or employablilty weakened if they have  lost their job. Therefore employers are often inclined to recruit migrants, attract graduates from other regions, or move to  where the potential labour supply is bigger and more diverse. At the same time it is frequently difficult for educational institutions to meet all the needs of employers and thus there is little connectivity between the supply and demand of skills.

Questions for discussion:

  • How can we make sure that young people choose study fields that are in demand by companies? What is the role of regional educational institutions and employers in this case? How can cluster competitiveness be addressed?

  • How can we raise the employability of the low-skilled? What is the role of training and skill development?

  • How do we prevent skill obsolescence? What is the role of the employers?

Draft agenda



30-40 senior governmental officials, academic researchers, economic organisations, NGOs, trade unions, business representatives, university, research students, seniors community groups, youth organisations.

To register, pelase contact Swapna Ajay of the URC, University of Western Sydney.



The workshop will take place at the Urban Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney in Bankstown, NSW, Australia.



For further information, please contact Dr. Laura Schatz of the URC, University of Western Sydney or Dr. Cristina Martinez-Fernandez, Senior Policy Analyst, OECD LEED Programme.