Jobs providing essential public services – like health care, education, safety, parks, and more – are a pillar of strength in Australia's labour market. Public sector jobs are generally good jobs, with decent pay and more security than is typical of many private sector positions. The strategic importance of public sector work is all the more visible in regional communities. Job-creation in private businesses hasn't been adequate to meet the needs of most regional communities, as private activity is increasingly concentrated in the major cities. So good jobs in schools, hospitals, and public administration are essential to the well-being of regional towns. Public service workplaces in smaller communities also function as economic "anchors": keeping the local economy well grounded, and supporting many spin-off jobs in the private sector (in consumer goods and services, transportation, construction, and more).
Unfortunately, the positive economic potential of public sector work in regional communities has been undermined in recent years by misguided policies of fiscal austerity, which have placed more emphasis on cutting government spending than on supporting regional communities. A new report from the Centre for Future Work documents the erosion of public sector work in regional communities in NSW, relative to overall labour market growth. From 2011 to 2016 alone, this relative shrinkage was equivalent to the loss of 6000 public sector jobs in regional communities in the state. Of the 20 communities which experienced the greatest loss of public sector jobs in NSW in that period, 18 were located in regional NSW.