Western Sydney has been adding jobs at just one-third of the rate of the rest of the city, increasing the pressure on workers to travel out of the region.
Employment in western Sydney grew by an average of only 0.5 per cent over the past five years compared with an average of 1.6 per cent in the rest of the city, analysis by SGS Economics & Planning shows.
Impossible commute: Melinda Leyshon, with daughter Olivia. Photo: Ben Rushton
An SGS economist, Terry Rawnsley, said employment in western Sydney would have contracted in that period if not for the health and education sectors.
''Without these two mostly government-funded industries, employment in western Sydney would have fallen over the past five years by 0.1 per cent per year,'' he said.
''This highlights how difficult it is to grow private sector jobs in the region.''
Struggled to find opportunities near her home: Lafitaga-Anne Sasulu with two of her children, daughters Paris-Elizabeth and Carmeleeta, at their Bankstown unit. Photo: Ben Rushton
A lack of readily available jobs has been linked to low rates of female workforce participation in western Sydney. A recent Grattan Institute report said women with children in western Sydney may be unable to work because the only jobs available required a long commute.
A University of South Australia professor, Barbara Pocock, said many mothers wanted to be within a short journey of home. She called this ''the spatial leash'' because of the way it constrained female workforce participation. This forced some mothers to leave the workforce but many more took jobs near home that did not fully use their skills and training.
Anne Sasulu, a single mother from Bankstown, is looking for part-time work in office administration but has struggled to find opportunities near her home.
''Most of the jobs that I see online or in the paper are always out in the city, North Sydney, Surry Hills, Central, Town Hall, Ryde,'' she said.
Ms Sasulu, who has three children, is studying aged care at TAFE but is concerned that many job vacancies in that sector are a long way from her home.
In parts of Sydney's outer west, workforce participation rates for men were more than 20 per cent higher than for women, the Grattan Institute found. The 2011 census showed Sydney's lowest female participation rates were in the south-west of the city.
A long commute from Penrith forced Melinda Leyshon to give up her job in publishing after her first child was born.
''To keep doing that and to lose, on average, four hours a day in travel time just wasn't feasible for me,'' she said.
For a time she worked at the mechanic business she owns with her husband but now runs her own communications company from home.
More than a third of workers in western Sydney leave the region for work and the western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber, David Borger, said long commuting times were taking a toll on families.
''People are travelling up to three hours a day to get to work and that can have a catastrophic impact on family life and community life,'' he said.
''The real challenge is that figure is likely to grow because the population of western Sydney is double from 2 [million] to 4 million by 2061.''