P About

Project Background

We recognise that many drivers of the global economy in the 21st Century have the potential to usher in considerable change at the national, regional and local level. This includes the arrival of disruptive technologies, new business models, the adoption of Industry 4.0 and the potential impact of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence.

Specifically, this study

What don’t we know?

Previous studies in Australia have shown that employment outcomes from auto plant closures are often relatively poor. A number of studies have found that the loss of a major employer results in one third of workers regaining meaningful employment, one third exiting the labour force entirely and one third either unemployed or under employed. Comparable closures in other nations have seen better labour market outcomes achieved.

Critically, Australian studies have also highlighted the loss of productive capacity/skills as experienced technical and other workers leave the labour force.

What we don’t know is –

  • Will it be different next time?
  • Will AI have an impact?
  • Will government policies be more effective?
  • Will new generations of workers behave differently and will they achieve better outcomes?

What should we know by the end of our study?

The project is in its fifth year of using quantitative longitudinal surveys to trace the experiences and transitions of workers – including former OEM employees, those who remain in firms previously in the supply chain, and those made redundant from the supply chain. These surveys record work (including identifying which occupations and industries workers are moving to) and non-work activities, and collect social, health and household data. Analysis has and will identify personal, household and labour market factors and include validated instruments for measuring well-being and finances.

We have conducted qualitative interviews with a subset of workers to identify perceived impediments to re-employment and to understand the impacts of job loss on imagined futures.

For a subset of workers we have conducted discrete choice experiments on workers’ labour market expectations and decisions. This has been a world-first application of this technique for understanding the real-world choices and constraints faced by individuals affected by a large-scale redundancy.

The research investigates how plant closures affects communities and the ways in which they can best respond to an economic shock. It draws on recent thinking about local leadership to better understand who are the key enablers of positive change when a major closure or job shedding or redundancies is announced.


This study is being delivered by leading Australian and international automotive industry transformation researchers. It has international credibility and authority, producing rigorous academic findings and insights that have been published in high quality peer reviewed journals.


Redundancies are an inevitable feature of on-going economic change and large-scale manufacturing redundancies – in iconic industries such as automobiles – have always attracted considerable attention. Previous work has largely left key questions unanswered, this is not a robust evidence base on what the real outcomes of restructuring look like now and into the future.

This research makes a fundamental contribution to Australia’s economy and society by providing us with the knowledge we need to better prepare for an economy of on-going change.