Why you should be paying attention to Australia's infrastructure boom

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Australia’s infrastructure and construction industry is experiencing one of the biggest booms in living memory. With so many new projects in the pipeline and more than $16 billion a year forecast to be invested for at least the next three years, the boom is set to last up to a decade.

Why is infrastructure investment necessary?

Any growing population requires constant structural changes. Australia is an extreme example of this: not only is it a young country, but its rapidly-growing population is largely urbanised, with 89.7% living in cities in 2017. Furthermore, the population is expected to exceed 30 million by 2030, with three-quarters of this growth occurring within the four largest cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. This rate of urbanisation and growth requires complex, large-scale public infrastructure development.

What instigated the infrastructure boom?

While Australia’s infrastructure has become an increasingly pressing issue, government budgets and planning delays have prohibited their progression. However, with residential property prices in Sydney up 76% since 2011, the NSW Government has seen a significant improvement in finances through property stamp duty and land tax. Alongside low interest rates and decreased borrowing costs, this increased revenue leaves the Government in the strongest financial position recorded since 1997, reflected in their latest budget which proposes $72.7 billion to be spent on infrastructure over the next four years.

Why this matters to you:

While high levels of spending from the Australian government are instrumental in maintaining economic growth, by mid-2019 further investment from the private sector will need to play a key role in the delivery of infrastructure projects. This offers investors, businesses, and industry professionals a prosperous environment, providing huge potential for growth. Engineering and construction activity in Australia increased by 12% in 2017, indicating an increased inclination of businesses to invest in expanding capacity. Due to the high number of projects in progress, this boom will resonate for many years to come, promising stable long-term work opportunities.

However, on the cusp of the biggest wave of public infrastructure spending in three decades and with one of the world’s largest infrastructure project pipelines, Australia needs experts. In Q2 of 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics documented an enormous 64,400 new construction jobs. The sudden leap in activity levels across the construction and infrastructure sector highlights shortages within an employment-heavy industry.

Outlook for career development:

For qualified professionals, this growth landscape heightens the incentive to relocate to Australia, with healthy salaries offered due to increasing demand. The unprecedented breadth of the projects in motion supply professionals with exciting, high-quality experiences and the opportunity for accelerated career progression.

Industry focus: the legal market

Activity across Australia’s infrastructure and construction sector has rocketed over the last 18 months with the launch of iconic infrastructure projects. This growth spurt in the sector has highlighted a major legal skills shortage at the leading firms being instructed on these projects – there are simply not enough talented infrastructure lawyers to meet the demand. The radical nature of the forecasted investment and the vast amount of jobs being created in the infrastructure and construction market could make the rewards doubly lucrative for lawyers willing to make the move to, or back to, Australia – with quality of work, and increased chances for career progression likely to come as a result.

Relocating to Australia is already an extremely attractive prospect for lawyers from many countries; and it is almost inevitable for expat Aussie lawyers to at some point ‘return home’. For construction and project lawyers, the current boom in the infrastructure industry is making the move look all the more appealing, with many lawyers and firms looking to benefit from the monumental market growth. For senior lawyers looking to progress their careers, being in such an active market provides more scope to create the necessary business case to support progression to partnership.

Boral’s Managing Director, Mike Kane, reportedly expects the impact of such expenditure to last up to a decade. Working within world class infrastructure and transport networks could be a huge feather in the proverbial cap of any lawyer with a desire to add prestigious experience, the best you can currently access globally, to their resumé.

See Group8’s report on Australia partner moves for Q1 2018 here.


Written by Miranda Hilton, CEO, and Max Hamid, Content Editor, at Group8 Global.