- Around 1.8 million people are employed in the core functions of Australia’s night-time economy, food & drink, entertainment, and accommodation, according to the Australia Bureau of Statistics.
- On Indeed, job postings for night-time opportunities have surged recently, easily outpacing overall nationwide posting gains.
- Job postings on Indeed using night-time keywords are heavily concentrated in food preparation and personal care.
- A sharp fall in Australia’s youth population, due to border closures, raises concerns that Australia’s night-time economy may struggle to find enough workers to meet growing demand.
Between economic restrictions and nightly curfews, it has been pretty rough for Australia’s night-time economy (NTE) throughout the pandemic. Although restaurants, pubs and nightclubs are at the centre of Australia’s NTE, that doesn’t do justice to the broad range of occupations performed outside the traditional 9-to-5 workday. Most have been hampered to some degree by pandemic restrictions, but have found their footing during the recent recovery.
To gauge the scope of Australia’s NTE, we use Australia Bureau of Statistics data on its core industries: food & drink, entertainment and accommodation. By this measure, the NTE is huge, with nearly 1.8 million people employed across those industries in 2020-21. In 2022, they appear to be bouncing back vigorously from what undoubtedly was one of the worst crises they ever faced.
At the same time, job ads for night-time opportunities posted on Indeed across all sectors have surged over the past half year following easing of economic restrictions in New South Wales and Victoria.
The growing demand for staff highlights the resilience of the NTE and its return to health. But recruitment for the NTE may prove difficult, as a Hiring Lab report on Australia’s hospitality sector explains. A shortage of young people, who typically account for a large share of employment in accommodation & food services and entertainment, has created a shortfall that may prove difficult to overcome.
How big is Australia’s night-time economy?
Unfortunately, there is no universal definition of Australia’s NTE. It’s also impossible to separate businesses cleanly into daytime or night-time operations. While food & drink, entertainment and accommodation are central to the NTE, many establishments in those industries are open both day and night. A pub can be open for lunch and then for drinks and dinner, while a theatre may have both night-time and matinee shows.
There are also a range of sectors that either provide night-time services, such as aged care and healthcare, or support the NTE, such as advertising services and transportation. Classifying businesses for which night-time activity isn’t primary is difficult.
To get around this problem, we use a two-pronged approach. By examining ABS data on the NTE’s core services of food & drink, entertainment and accommodation, we can conservatively estimate NTE employment and other economic metrics. Meanwhile, analysis of Indeed job postings that use keywords and phrases related to night-time employment provides data on which industries advertise for night workers most heavily and how quickly the number of such ads is growing.
In 2020-21, the three core NTE industries employed around 1.8 million people, paid out $55.4 billion in wages and generated economic activity worth $80 billion, according to the ABS. Food & drink is, by far, the engine room of Australia’s NTE, accounting for around 80% of employment and over 75% of industry value added during that period.
In 2020-21, employment in Australia’s NTE was 4.2% above its 2018-19 level — that is, before the pandemic began. While wages & salaries rose sharply, supported by measures such as JobKeeper, economic value created by the industry dropped 7%.
Performance within the NTE also varied significantly. The food & drink sector generally held up much better than either entertainment or accommodation, probably reflecting the availability of food delivery services. Employment in accommodation in 2020-21 was 6.9% below pre-pandemic levels while industry value added was down 22% for entertainment and 26% for accommodation.
The overall decline in economic activity would have been much greater without federal government support such as JobKeeper. In 2020-21, 3.7% of income for NTE industries came directly from the government — nine times higher than normal — with government funding accounting for more than 8.4% of income in entertainment and 10.4% in accommodation.
Demand for night-time workers has surged since lockdowns lifted
Indeed data provide a complementary view of the NTE. We can recognise night-time jobs by examining keywords and phrases in job descriptions posted on Indeed. Phrases such as ‘night shift’,‘ evening shift’ or ‘graveyard shift’ signify a job is performed outside the traditional 9-to-5 workday.
From January to June 2022, 3.2% of job postings on Indeed explicitly used night-time terms in job descriptions, up from 2.5% during the same period a year ago. The measure hit 3.5% of postings in November last year immediately following easing of economic restrictions in New South Wales and Victoria. It reached that level again in May and June.
Economic restrictions had a large impact on job creation across the NTE. In August last year — at the height of the delta lockdowns — night-time jobs accounted for just 2.2% of postings in New South Wales and Victoria, well below trends across the rest of Australia.
That increased to 3.3% by October, when lockdowns started to ease, before peaking at 3.7% of New South Wales and Victoria postings in November. Since then, night-time postings in New South Wales and Victoria have converged with the rest of Australia, highlighting the temporary impact of lockdown and reopening.
From January to June 2022, Western Australia and Queensland had the highest number of night-time opportunities as shares of total state job postings. The smaller states and territories — Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the nation’s capital — had the lowest shares. The night-time posting shares in each state and territory other than Tasmania were above a year ago — no small achievement given the incredible growth in job postings across Australia during the pandemic recovery.
Food preparation and personal care dominate night-time postings
Night-time opportunities were most common in sectors such as food preparation, personal care and hospitality & tourism. From January to June this year, 16.5% of postings in food preparation utilised night-time phrases in job descriptions, ahead of 12.6% in personal care and 11.1% in hospitality & tourism. Also ranking highly were cleaning & sanitation at 10.3% and security & public safety at 9.3%. There was a clear gap between those five occupational groups and the rest of the top ten.
The ten occupations with the largest share of night-time job postings accounted for almost 70% of such postings. Food preparation alone represented almost one-third of night-time postings, with personal care & home health accounting for an additional 13%.
Compared with a year ago, the night-time posting share increased across almost every occupational group. The largest increase was in hospitality & tourism whose night-time share rose 4.5 percentage points in January to June this year compared with the same period last year. Personal care was not far behind at 4.4 percentage points. Food preparation climbed 3.5 percentage points, while cleaning & sanitation rose 2.9 percentage points. The broad-based increase in night-time opportunities is precisely what you’d expect given the degree such activity was hampered a year ago.
Difficulties finding talent for these night-time jobs
While the NTE is finally operating without restrictions and buoyed by the resumption of international travel, it faces one clear challenge: recruiting enough staff.
Industries such as food & drink, entertainment and accommodation rely heavily on younger workers. Around two-thirds of workers across accommodation & food services are under 35, with almost half under 25. That’s problematic because Australia’s population ages 15-24 and 25-34 has fallen 3.9% and 2.6% respectively since the pandemic began due to closed borders.
Other industries in the NTE, such as personal care, cleaning and security, are less reliant on younger workers and therefore better placed to attract staff.
The reopening of international borders will help to ease these recruitment pressures — and there is growing interest in Australia-based jobs from overseas jobseekers. But the number of travellers from abroad isn’t likely to return to pre-pandemic levels in the near term. Businesses operating in the NTE may need to get creative to attract more candidates by taking steps such as offering higher pay and other incentives.
This blog post utilises data from Indeed job postings and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
We identify night-time job postings on Indeed if the job title or description includes terms like “night shift”, “evening shift”, “graveyard shift” or similar terms. We make no distinction as to what industries these jobs are in.
The data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics comes from the ‘Australian Industry’ release for 2020-21. The ABS-based definition of night-time economy — food & drink, entertainment and accommodation — was adapted from the ‘Measuring the Australian Night Time Economy 2019-20’ report.