AUSTRALIA’s iron works is a thing of myth, but it’s one of the world’s most important and well-known, according to a study.
The city of Sydney, which sits on the fringes of Australia’s vast iron ore industry, was one of a dozen cities studied by a research group at the University of Sydney.
The researchers were looking at the city’s iron and steel production, including its supply chain and workforce, to determine whether there was a connection between iron mining and jobs and prosperity.
The study was published in the Journal of Applied Economics.
“The study really looked at how well iron mining worked as a tool to create a sense of economic development, rather than just as a form of economic activity,” lead researcher Dr Michael Boulton said.
“When you look at iron production in other cities in the world, we found that in Sydney, we see that mining was an important part of the fabric of the city.”
The city is famous for the Sydney Opera House, but also for the iconic ironworks.
“It’s a very iconic building in the city and we wanted to see if it had any effect on the way the city was created, the way it functioned as a whole, the cultural identity, the diversity, the people living here,” Dr Boulman said.
The research showed that the Sydney city had a “labor productivity” of almost 5 per cent, which was higher than many other Australian cities.
“What we saw was that the productivity of the workforce is very important for the city,” Dr Martin Kuehn said.
He said the productivity in the iron works was “almost identical” to other cities around the world.
“If you take a look at the cities around Sydney, they are really quite small and they have a very low productivity, but we did find that the ironworks produced about the same amount of iron as the average city in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand,” he said.
Dr Boulson said he believed there was strong evidence that the “work productivity” was due to the “quality” of the workers, not the quality of the product.
“We have been trying to understand what the quality and quality of labour was for that iron production, and the answer we found is very, very high,” Dr Kuehin said.
In the US and Australia, the average annual rate of employment for the skilled workers is 5 per year.
“For those of us in the industry who are at the bottom, we know that that’s not really an acceptable rate, that’s going to make us very unhappy,” Dr Darryl Kuehl said.
Mr Kuehns said while the city would have enjoyed an economic boom had there been an ironworks in the 1960s, the town was not a boomtown in the modern sense.
“Sydney, in the early days, was an industrial hub, a very productive hub, and that is not the case today,” he explained.
“So the reality is that the economic productivity is very low.”
I think the industrial sector that’s there today, that we’ve built up, has a much lower productivity than what it was in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“Dr Bouson said the findings showed there were many lessons to be learned from the iron industry.”
Iron production in Sydney in the 1950s was really high and the industry was relatively efficient, it produced about 2,000 tonnes of iron per year,” he told ABC Radio Sydney.”
Today it produces about 700 tonnes of steel per year, so that’s about 3 per cent of the total.
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