Key workers and housing affordability in the City of Melbourne


Case Studies


The City of Melbourne


Understanding the City of Melbourne's key and essential workers: their importance to the local economy, who they are, where and how they live, their journey to work, their socio-economic position and their ability to afford housing.


.id (informed decisions) combined our expertise in local economics, demographics and housing to provide a detailed report on the City of Melbourne's key workers.


The City of Melbourne is committed to facilitating more affordable housing for key workers. This research provided a key evidence base for informing discussion and policy, presented to the Future Melbourne Committee in March 2024.


"It’s been great to have access to such a strong evidence base to inform our policy development. The depth of understanding from the .id team, and their ability to translate data into insights has been critical to the success of our work."

- City of Melbourne

Need help understanding key workers? We can help.

.id (informed decisions) undertook research on behalf of the City of Melbourne to examine the current socio-demographic, economic and housing characteristics of key workers in the City of Melbourne. In doing so, the aim was to quantify and highlight the importance of key workers to the economy, the type of jobs they do, their incomes, their commuting patterns and their housing situation. A projection of key workers is also provided to illustrate future housing needs and economic importance.

Key findings

Economic impact
  • Nearly a third of the workforce in the City of Melbourne are considered key workers, contributing significantly to the local economy

  • Key workers in health and hospitality sectors make up a significant portion of the City's workforce, supporting key industries

  • City of Melbourne key workers tend to be younger, born overseas and speak a language other than English at home

  • The proportion of key workers in some industries on very low and low incomes in the City of Melbourne is well above the key worker average

  • Other industries, such as Education and Training and Health Care and Social Assistance, have a relatively low proportion but a high number of persons on very low and low incomes

Commute patterns
  • Most key workers (86%) in the City of Melbourne live outside the LGA

  • More than 40% of key workers travel further than 20km to work.

Housing affordability
  • Overcrowding is more prevalent in key worker households compared to all worker households for the City

  • Key worker households are twice as likely to be in housing stress, compared with all City of Melbourne workers

  • ‘Traditional’ key workers, such as paramedics, firefighters and teachers, are less likely to be in housing stress

  • Many key worker households could not afford a median-price unit in the City of Melbourne

Future need
  • City of Melbourne key workers are projected to grow by 50% between 2021 and 2041

The full report was provided to the City of Melbourne and integrated into their Defining key worker housing research. The purpose of this research is to support the development of policy to secure affordable rental housing for key workers.

In the media

‘Essential to our economy’: Melbourne’s plan to get cleaners, retail staff and baristas into city homes, Royce Millar and Josh Gordon, The Age, September 6, 2023

Who are key workers?

Key workers are generally lower paid workers in occupations considered important to the effective functioning of a city. There is no standard definition of key worker occupations.

For the purpose of this report, the key worker definition was based on traditional key worker occupations identified in AHURI Final Report No. 355, as well as a selection of occupations specific to the role and function of the City of Melbourne’s economy.



Work with .id to understand your key worker housing needs

The City of Melbourne is one of many councils we have worked with to explore the interplay between affordable housing and the local economy.

Our expertise in local economies, housing and demographics, along with our decades of work with local governments, gives us unique insight and capability.

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