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 this 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 in 5 years?

The project will use a quantitative longitudinal survey 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 – for five-years in annual surveys that record work (including identifying which occupations and industries workers are moving to) and non-work activities, and collect social, health and household data. Analysis will identify personal, household and labour market factors and include validated instruments for measuring well-being and finances.

We will conduct 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. We will conduct interviews with workers’ spouses to understand how job loss affects household dynamics.

For a subset of workers we will conduct discrete choice experiments on workers’ labour market expectations and decisions. This will be a world-first application of this technique for understanding the real-world choices and constraints faced by individuals affected by a large-scale redundancy. We will build case studies of the affected regions, documenting the overall labour market impacts of closures and exploring the capacity of regions to respond resiliently to change.

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 will be delivered by leading Australian and international automotive industry transformation researchers. It will have international credibility and authority, it will be seen to be fully independent and will deliver rigorous academic findings and insights that can be published in high quality peer reviewed journals.

From these findings the research team will deliver:

  • Annual reports to the Reference Committee with key findings, case studies and metrics from the surveys about worker outcomes, sectoral impacts and employment growth, family and community impacts.
  • Media promotion of key findings and metrics with the support of the Reference Committee.
  • Three conferences on themes such as industry restructuring, change and worker transition, to promote the work of the study, the involvement of partners and encourage international exchange of ideas.
  • The promotion of the study and findings on this website, which will also provide resources for the partners and survey participants.


Redundancies are an inevitable feature of on-going economic change and large-scale manufacturing redundancies – in iconic industries such as auto – 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.