ANU demographics professor Peter McDonald.

ANU demographics professor Peter McDonald. Photo: Andrew Meares

Living in Canberra's most expensive suburbs seems to come at a heavy cost to work-life balance, new census data on working hours shows.

Postcodes in the inner south and inner north, which command some of Canberra's highest real estate prices and income levels, are home to the highest proportion of people working more than 49 hours per week.

Residents of Campbell, home to many bureaucrats and senior defence personnel, put in the most hours of any in the ACT, with 22.5 per cent of the overall population checking the top box in the census.

If you exclude Campbell residents who do not have to work (that is, their working hours were marked as 'not applicable' in the census data) that number jumps even higher, showing nearly 37 per cent of the working population in the suburb putting in more than 49 hours per week.

Life in the suburbs immediately surrounding the centre of government is also hard-earned. One in five people in the suburbs of Forrest and Barton also work more than 49 hours a week. The southern town of Tharwa rounded out the top five, although its small population could have affected its result. Peter McDonald, a professor of demographics at ANU, said while many Commonwealth and ACT public servants received big salaries, the unsaid expectation was that they were prepared to work longer hours.

''Although their total salary is higher, if they're working a lot of extra hours then their hourly rate can actually drop pretty low comparatively,'' he said. Denise Carlton, the Bureau of Statistics ACT regional director, said the employment landscape was very different in Canberra compared with the rest of Australia.

''The census data revealed that almost half of professional workers in the ACT were public servants, compared with just over 20 per cent in the rest of Australia,'' she said.

Nationally, the leading employment industries were health, retail and manufacturing.

Although other cities didn't have the same proportion of public servants, Professor McDonald said other state capitals shared the connection between rich suburbs and long work hours. ''People in the high-earning private business positions are also expected to work equivalent hours to public servants during the week and on weekends, and be available during their leisure time,'' he said.

Bucking the trend were the suburbs of Acton and Civic, which are home to many ANU students.

Although centrally located, they had the highest number of residents working casual hours, with 21.1 per cent and 9.8 per cent respectively spending 1-15 hours a week doing paid work.