Senior Urban Economist & Economic Consultant
Urban Economist | Economic consultant
Rob is driven by a desire to help shape communities for a better future. Trained as an economist, he has a unique fifteen-year background in economics, demographics, statistics and strategic planning with a focus on understanding how economic forces influence local government areas across Australia.
At .id, Rob leads the economic team to provide Local Government with high-quality analysis and information tools, including specialised consulting services and tailored information products such as economy.id.
By working at the intersection of place and economic analysis, Rob offers insights that help local government develop strategies with confidence and make informed investment decisions.
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From the .id blogThe latest articles from Rob
Rob Hall – Senior Urban Economist – .id blog
Demographic resources, population trends, insights and anecdotes from Australasia's most trusted spatial analysts
economic analysis, economic development, economic exposure, house prices, household consumption, industry analysis, local government, retail trade, wealth effects / 26 Feb
The impact of falling house prices on local economies
economic analysis, ABS, data imputation, economic profiles, economy.id, employment data, imputed data, jobs data, local employment data, local jobs data / 12 Nov
Are you basing economic development decisions on false news?
demographic analysis, housing, age structures, city planning, dwelling density, greenfield development, greenfield land, household structure, housing density, medium density, planning services in growth areas, Strategic planning, suburb lifecycle / 01 Aug
Is it time to review growth area planning?
Case studiesRead some of Rob's work
.id was engaged by Blacktown City Council to analyse tourism and visitation trends in Blacktown. Yes, you read correctly, tourism in Blacktown!
While Blacktown does not feature in TripAdvisors Best of 2016 list, our analysis revealed that Blacktown is not a traditional holidaying destination but instead plays a different role in the visitor economy.
What did the data show?
Blacktown’s primary tourism function is that of a visitation hub, attracting friends and relatives both domestically and internationally.
Blacktown’s role as a visitation hub: Visiting relatives and friends to Blacktown LGA, 2008 – 2016 (3 year moving average ‘000)
This chart illustrates that Visiting Friends and Relatives is a dominant market for Blacktown which has experienced strong growth over the past five years. The figures published by Tourism Research Australia, show that there was an average of 476,000 visiting friends and relative visitors to Blacktown in the 3 years to 2015/16. This represents 51% of all visitation and an increase of 37% on 2007/08 levels.
What is driving growth?
Rather than go through all the drivers (including exchange rates), I would like to draw your attention to the importance of Blacktown’s demographic past in driving this growth in visitation. I identify three below.
- The Return of NSW – Net Overseas Migration
NSW and Sydney are once again attracting a high share of net overseas migration (NOM). This growth in NOM appears to have supported strong international visitation to NSW (and Blacktown) over the last five years.
Net Overseas Migration, New South Wales
- Population born overseas
Analysis from profile.id shows that Blacktown’s community is characterised by a relatively high share of residents born in Philippines, India, New Zealand and Fiji. Blacktown actually has the largest Filipino community in Australia (see this blog).
Blacktown City – Persons born in NZ, Philippines, India and Fiji are dominant groups
And when you look at the Tourism Research Australia data, there has been strong international visitation from these overseas markets to Blacktown. Blacktown’s demographic profile supports a strong foundation to drive future growth in the visitor economy.
International Visitors: Where they came from by region, 2015/16 (5 year average)
- Migration profile
The TRA research also showed stronger visitation growth from Queensland and Victoria. This can be partly explained by historical out-migration trends in Blacktown. As illustrated in the image below from forecast.id, between 2006 and 2011, a large number of former Blacktown residents moved to Queensland and Victoria. The good news for tourism (and the Blacktown economy) is that they appear to return to visit friends and relatives.
The bigger picture
At the local government level, the visitor economy is significant because it is an export sector. Exports are sales of goods and services to non-resident households, businesses and other organisations, outside the LGA boundaries (e.g. for Blacktown this includes international visitors; inter-state visitors and intra-state visitors such as regional NSW, Penrith, Blue Mountains and Parramatta, etc).
As illustrated in the figure below, export-led growth is important as it brings external earnings into the local area. By doing so, exports increase demand for local services through multiplier effects, creating a virtuous cycle of economic growth. This means the economy can grow without the constraint of population growth.
Our analysis for Blacktown also showed that while the Visiting Friends and Relatives market are not big spenders, the size of the Visiting Friends and Relatives market makes it a major contributor to the economy. Almost 50% of tourism expenditure in Blacktown is due to visiting family and friends.
While Blacktown is the focus of this case study, this story is relevant to many Councils across Australia who have a high share of overseas-born population. The research shows the importance of our diverse communities as an economic asset. This diversity helps our local communities tap into the global economy, creating relationships, providing business opportunities and sharing knowledge.
But the message in our local economy needs to be right. Let’s talk more about the visitor economy rather than tourism which evokes images of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and Bondi Beach. And if your visitor economy is driven by Visiting Friends and Relatives, then this visitation role should be reflected in the development of economic strategies and marketing efforts.
One strategy could be to empower local residents to become ambassadors for the visitor economy. This could include local databases, marketing material, leader groups, niche events, etc. These strategies could be further informed by better understanding your community. Using .id’s Social Atlas for Blacktown can show you clusters of different ethnicity groups. In the map below we highlight the hot spots for where the Filipino community live. Your next visitor economy ambassador may well live here.
Want to know more about your tourism and visitor economy?
Information about the tourism and hospitality sector, as well as visitation levels is available in economy.id. This information is vital for understanding tourism and visitation trends and developing strategies that make the most out of your visitor economy. .id can work with you to help build a high-quality evidence base to support your strategy. The result? More insight, informed decisions, and a strategy that works.
ClientBlacktown City Council
Understand tourism and visitation trends in Blacktown.
Demographics can be an important factor in tourism and the diversity of a council can be an economic asset.
Economic and marketing strategies should reflect the visitor economy, which is driven by visiting friends and relatives.
The relationship between demographic information and employment statistics can be ambiguous and not immediately clear – How does population growth affect employment projections? And how can this information help us plan for the future?
Western Sydney University engaged .id to develop small area population, labour force and employment projections for the Greater Western Sydney region, to understand the impact of different urban forms (i.e. distribution of population and jobs) on the performance of the transport network in 2040+.
The .id solution
To examine population and economic development in Western Sydney, .id developed an analysis of population and dwelling growth rates, spatial employment trends and labour force participation rates.
The analysis was underpinned by .id’s independent state-wide population forecasts, called Small Area Forecast information (SAFi). These forecasts provide extremely granular information to show exactly where growth is occurring, from regional level to suburbs and neighbourhoods and even right down to city blocks.
This locational analysis was combined this an understanding of urban economic issues including agglomeration, spatial inequality pressures, strength in densification and the importance of investment in place and complementary infrastructure on the economic performance of regions.
The resulting job intensity analysis summarised in the chart below reveals what we call the ‘witch’s broom’.
This highlights the job deficit challenge for Western Sydney, showing the difference between the number of local jobs and the number of resident workers.
Three scenarios are presented:
- The bottom branch uses historical employment trends and extrapolates these forward to 2036. If these business-as-usual trends continue, Western Sydney will have a jobs deficit of 306,063.
- The middle branch uses the ratio of 0.84 jobs per resident worker (the ratio estimated at 2014) to estimate the future deficit. Under this scenario, the region’s job deficit surpasses 200,000 by 2036.
- The upper branch is based on the aspirational ratio of 0.94, based on employment forecasts produced by the NSW Bureau of Transport Statistics. This is the only branch where new jobs growth claws back the region’s jobs deficit.
.id’s projections demonstrate that if business-as-usual continues for the next twenty years, Western Sydney will face a jobs deficit of 306,063 and a daily worker outflow of 492,521.
To achieve stronger employment outcomes, major investment is required to ease the pressure on the transport network, and provide opportunities for residents to work closer to home. The analysis clearly demonstrates the need to reverse the gap between jobs and employed residents in Western Sydney which has grown significantly over the last decade. The findings have been presented in the report ‘Addressing Western Sydney’s Job Slide’ authored by Professor Phillip O’Neill, Director of the Centre for Western Sydney, Western Sydney University.
ClientWestern Sydney University
To understand the impact of different urban forms (i.e. distribution of population and jobs) on the performance of the transport network in 2040+ in the Greater Western Sydney Region
Current employment trends will lead to major jobs deficit in the next twenty years
Major investment is required for Western Sydney to achieve stronger employment outcomes, take the pressure off the transport network, and provide opportunities for residents to work closer to home
The vision for Melbourne is to be a global city of opportunity and choice. It is important to maintain Melbourne’s competitiveness by creating a city structure that creates more jobs, drives productivity and supports investment.
Does Greater Melbourne need an alternative employment projection scenario? What are the risks of only one employment projection scenario for Melbourne? What are the ‘known unknowns’? How can we proactively reduce risk by looking at alternatives? How can we use policy intent to create an alternative employment projection scenario?
The .id solution
.id’s alternative employment projection scenario analysed the implications of existing employment projections for Greater Melbourne, including inequality and productivity. We then assessed the potential risks of diminishing returns to agglomeration to Melbourne’s Central Region by presenting information about:
- a more competitive Sydney economy
- competition from residential development
- land supply constraints.
To highlight the possibilities of an alternative future, .id presented a case study analysis of successful suburban employment precincts.
Outcomes – data driven success
id’s alternative employment projection scenario sets out an approach for strategic planners to test their employment projections for economic uncertainty.
.id also provided a matrix to highlight the outcome and risks of different scenarios so that strategic planners can explore how actions by government can influence future growth, reduce risk and open up possibilities.
Strategic planners can then respond to different economic conditions with a transport plan and an economic development strategy that has been rigorously tested.
ClientMetropolitan Planning Authority (VIC)
Does Greater Melbourne need an alternative employment projection scenario?
Strategic planners can explore how actions by government can influence future growth, reduce risk and open up possibilities
.id developed a matrix to highlight the outcome and risks of different scenarios
.id’s economic appraisal of upgrades to the Bathurst Regional Airport helped Bathurst Regional Council to secure $2.5m in funding from the National Stronger Region Fund.
The airport contributes to long-term economic development, attracts new businesses and allows for continued growth of the region’s visitor economy. The national funding will be matched dollar for dollar by Bathurst Regional Council.
What are the economic benefits and economic impacts that could be generated by a $5 million upgrade to the Bathurst Regional Airport? How does this project contribute to economic growth in the region? How does the project support disadvantage in the region?
The .id solution
.id developed a methodology to evaluate the economic and wider benefits of the proposed upgrades to the Bathurst Regional Airport.
To capture the full benefits of the project .id undertook:
- Benefit Cost Assessment
- Economic Impact Assessment
- Social Impact and Disadvantage Assessment
- Economic Analysis to highlight the need for the project
The framework that .id developed to quantify the benefits and costs of the upgrades is consistent with Treasury guidelines for the evaluation of capital projects. The benefit cost assessment estimated benefits and costs over a 20-year period and included Sensitivity Analysis to test the robustness of the framework.
The key benefits quantified included:
- Net Present Value
- Benefit Cost Ratio
- Lease Revenue
- Aircraft Movement Revenue
- Cost Savings
- Induced Revenue Opportunities
- Residual Value
Outcomes – data driven success
The economic appraisal found that the proposed upgrades would make a valuable contribution to the Bathurst regional economy. The upgrades allow the airport to continue to grow, meet legislative requirements and deliver community benefits such as:
- generate economic output
- diversify the economic base
- attract new private investment
- increase council revenue
- create new jobs
- create cost savings for airport users (e.g. Rex Airlines and Australian Air Force Cadets)
- support tourism visitation due to increased efficiency at the airport
ClientBathurst Regional Council (NSW)
To model the economic benefits and impacts of upgrading the Bathurst Regional Airport
The proposed upgrades will increase employment and encourage private investment in Bathurst
Successful application to the National Stronger Regions Fund for $2.5million in funding
.id’s economic analysis of Parramatta’s key workers highlights the relationship between housing affordability and economic growth.
The productivity of a place is adversely affected when housing is no longer affordable for the key workers* that enable the local economy to function.
How important are key workers to the local economy? How many key workers currently work in Parramatta and how much are they forecast to grow? What is the demographic profile of key workers? Are key workers facing housing affordability pressure?
The .id solution
.id developed a methodology to assess key worker issues and future demand in the Parramatta City. The report analyses the importance of key workers to the economy and identifies key drivers of future growth. Key Worker Profiles are also provided alongside a Rental Affordability Analysis to help understand the nature of this growth, particularly in terms of housing needs. We prepared Employment Forecast Scenarios to estimate key worker employment growth over the next 20 years.
Outcomes – data driven success
.id found that key workers play a valuable economic and social role in the Parramatta economy. In 2014 there were an estimated 17,360 key workers in the City of Parramatta. This represents 14.6% of all workers and 97 key workers for every 1,000 people in Parramatta. As a group, there are as many key workers as there are people employed in the Public Administration and Safety Industry which is Parramatta’s second largest industry. The economic role of key workers is set to become even more important over the next 15 years. This will be due to strong forecast population growth, a younger demographic, and robust employment growth driven by service sector industries.
This report provides important context for the development of future housing and economic development strategies in the City of Parramatta. These observations point to the conclusion that sustainable economic growth needs to be underpinned by an urban renewal plan to grow housing stock.
* we defined key workers as school teachers; midwifery and nursing professionals; defence force members, fire fighters and police; health and welfare support workers; hospitality workers; child carers; cleaners and laundry workers; and automobile, bus and rail drivers.
ClientParramatta City Council (NSW)
Can key workers afford to live in Parramatta?
Over 17,000 key workers provide vital services to the Parramatta community.
Parramatta's Key Workers play a vital role in economic growth but are at risk from escalating housing costs
The .id 2015 Toowoomba Economic Profile, combined with economy.id, provides a great resource for prospective investors and sets the foundation for future economic strategies, council policy, community development, and land-use strategies.
The profile was launched in August 2015. By the end of 2015, over 400 copies had been downloaded and over 200 hard copies had been distributed in Australia and overseas.
What is the economic story of Toowoomba? What are its traditional strengths? What are its bold ambitions? How do we promote our economy? How do we plan for growth?
The .id solution
.id took a different approach to previous economic profiles by developing an economic story for Toowoomba. This approach is designed to promote the region to investors by telling the economic story rather than repeating factual statements and presenting data. Instead, we tailored the story to the audience and effectively used charts, tables and maps to complement a narrative that identifies the unique characteristics of the local area.
Outcomes – data driven success
Over its rich history, the Toowoomba region has transformed into a diverse economy, offering a range of business, investment and employment opportunities.
The economic profile highlights the economic strengths of the region and how it is changing to identify future opportunities for growth.
Links are provided in the report to the suite of .id tools for readers who require additional information.
Most topics can be monitored annually using the .id suite of online tools. This approach informs decision makers and engages stakeholders in a more meaningful way.
ClientToowoomba Regional Council (QLD)
How to highlight the economic strengths of Toowoomba to catch the next wave of economic, employment and investment opportunities.
The profile is a great resource for prospective investors and sets the foundation for future economic strategies
This approach informs decision makers and engages stakeholders in a more meaningful way.