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The Cost of Living and Jobs Market in Oz - City Breakdown


Australia is a BIG place and if you’re planning to move there, it can be hard to know what city will suit you best when it comes to job availability and living costs.

If the golden beaches and blue skies are calling and you’re starting to plan your Oz working holiday, choosing where to go is the first big decision you’ll make.

Weather, job availability, rental prices… these things must be considered when deciding on your working holiday destination.

Considering it’s such a desirable location for young people, Australia has some of the least affordable cities in the entire world when it comes to rent, so while it promises year round sunshine and a nonstop adventure – it comes at a cost!


Unemployment Rates

Each state has varying unemployment rates, just take a look at the chart below. 


Bear in mind, these numbers represent unemployment across all sectors of employment and might not reflect the rates in your field.

The areas with the highest employment numbers are; Retail Trade, Health Care and Social Assistance, Electricity, Gas Water and Waste Services, Professional, Scientific and Technical Services and Construction. Check out Job Outlook for information on the job markets you’re exploring.

If you’re working in Oz, you’ll need a TFN or Tax Filing Number. Taxback.com can help you get one!

There are also Australian visas available for skilled workers in particular areas. These are skilled occupations that are seriously in demand in Oz. The occupations currently on this list include; Engineering Manager, Software Engineer, Medical Administrator, Nursing, General Practitioner, Construction Project Manager, Architect, Surveyor, Chemical Engineer, Structural Engineer, Veterinarian, Special Needs Teacher, Midwife, Carpenter, Chef, Nurse Practitioner, Child Care Centre Manager, Barrister, Social Worker and Dental Therapist. 

If you’re looking for help securing your Australian visa, head over to Visa First, they have a 99.7% visa success rate and can help better your chances of living the Oz dream!



Sydney is Australia’s largest city with a population of over 4.6 million. It’s also Australia’s oldest city and is home to the famous Sydney Harbour and Bondi Beach, it’s a popular destination especially for backpackers and working holidaymakers.


The city is packed into the harbour area and its suburbs spread out for miles. It’s tough to find an affordable but central place to live so if you’re on a budget you’ll likely end up looking a little further out.

For those in their 20s, the suburbs of the Inner West is a good spot to start house hunting. If you want to be in the centre of culture alongside more expats, Western Sydney is a good bet albeit a little pricier.

Check out this guide on where to live in Sydney for more information.


Employment in Sydney is really good, its economy is booming and there are tonnes of job opportunities particularly in sectors like financial and professional services, tourism, research and education, manufacturing, communications technology and the list goes on.

Sydney is known for bad traffic because a lot of people choose to get around by car when there’s really no need, the public transport system covers almost all of the city.


Sydney is without a doubt the most expensive city you can live in, in fact it’s one of the most expensive cities in the entire world. A decent one-bedroom apartment outside the city would cost more than $1,600 per month for a city centre location including Bondi, Surry Hills and Kirribilli you’ll be looking at closer to $2,000+ per month. That being said, you’ll probably earn a decent wage while you’re there.

This is more expensive than the average in London and only $100 cheaper than New York.



Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city and is considered the country’s cultural and sporting capital. With a population of around 4 million, there’s lots to do if you like to dine out, immerse yourself in arts and culture or enjoy the local nightlife.

Since it’s further south than many of Australia’s popular destinations, it can be quite wet and windy… although the weather is known to change several times throughout the day.


Melbourne CBD is a good spot for working holidaymakers, if you want somewhere in this area that’s vibrant with a little bit of character, consider Fitzroy. If like checking out local restaurants and cafes then head to Richmond. North Melbourne is perfect for live music aficionados and creative types, it’s known for being a top hipster hangout neighbourhood.

Here’s a handy guide to renting in Melbourne


In terms of jobs, Melbourne has a lot to offer in areas like building and construction, nursing, financial services, nursing and engineering. There is a reasonably low rate of unemployment in Melbourne and employers are very welcoming to immigrants looking for work. People flood to Melbourne in search of work because it’s known for being a great place to find a working holiday job.


It’s not as pricey as Sydney but it is still really expensive. For instance a one-bedroom apartment outside the city would cost $1,000+ per month to rent.




Perth has kind of a reputation as a hipster’s paradise. There’s a warm climate which in turn means there’s a relaxed beachy lifestyle. It’s quite isolated than other areas in Oz but it has a lot to offer. It’s also located on the west coast and is ideal if you want to make a trip to South East Asia, like say Bali.


Perth’s population is around 1.25 million and is the most isolated capital city in the world… but don’t let that put you off. The city’s northern and western suburbs are considered the most in demand places to live. Average rent is significantly lower than Sydney and Melbourne. By about $400 per month.


Since the mining boom, there have been a lot more jobs in Perth, that’s why it’s attracted a lot of immigrants, particularly British and Irish. If you’re skilled in this area then you’ll have no problem securing work.

Of course you’ll find jobs in pretty much any sector you can think of, as with most big cities. Since it’s a little bit smaller, jobs are slightly harder to find than in the likes of Melbourne or Sydney.


Housing prices are generally quite pricey because of the resources boom. You would be looking at paying around $1,500 per month for a one-bedroom apartment outside the city centre.


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Brisbane is Australia’s third largest city and is warmer than Sydney and Melbourne. It’s known for having a pretty chilled out, easy going vibe. It’s close to prime holiday destinations like the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast which are about an hour’s drive away.


With a population of around 2 million, is a fast growing city with people who want to take advantage of the warm sub-tropical climate.

Unlike Melbourne and Sydney there’s a good chance you’ll find reasonably priced accommodation in the city which is located on the banks of the Brisbane River. You’ll have to choose if you’d rather live South-Side –more culture, a large Asian community with lots of good eats or North-Side - closer to the Gold Coast, lots of small village shops.


Brisbane has a thriving economy mixed with a relaxed atmosphere. Some of the most prominent industries for job hunters are health, business, manufacturing, hospitality and tourism.  


Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre will cost around $1,200 per month.


Top Tip: No matter where you want to go, you should try joining Facebook communities because you’ll have a better chance of finding a house share. There are often different groups for different nationalities for instance Irish Around Oz. House-hunting can be difficult in Oz so this is a good way to find an affordable room.

Gumtree is also super popular for finding house shares.



Adelaide is kind of like a big country town as opposed to a city but it’s a popular destination for backpackers arriving in Australia for the first time. The biggest bonus here is that you’ll be paying a lot less for rent and living costs.


Adelaide’s economy is decent and while you might not be as spoiled for choice when it comes to jobs as you would be in another city, you will find something. Adelaide need an estimated 5,000 new skilled immigrants to arrive each year so there is no shortage of job opportunities.


Adelaide is one of the most affordable cities in Oz. You’ll be paying under $1000 for a one-bedroom apartment and even less for a house share.




If you’re a wanna-be beach bum, Darwin is the place for you! You won’t find a more laid back place. The scenery is beautiful, there’s loads going on if you’re a night-owl and you like to party… and best of all, there’s warm weather all year round!


Darwin’s population is pretty tiny in comparison to Australia’s big cities – around 100,000 people call it home. It’s a bit of a hodge-podge of nationalities and cultures and is a sought after spot for expats and digital nomads.  Migrants are welcomed with open arms!


Darwin is currently experiencing a burst of economic growth… and you know what that means? More jobs! This is particularly true if you work in construction. There are also tonnes of jobs for other types of skilled workers like public administration and healthcare.


Despite not being one of Australia’s major cities, Darwin is kind of expensive to live in. The booming real estate market is driving up prices significantly and because it’s quite isolated, you’ll pay slightly more for goods and services. A one-bedroom apartment outside the city centre costs around $1,700 per month.



Cairns is a very small city with a population of around 120,000. It's located in North-Eastern Australia so it has the same tropical climate as Darwin. Cairns has it all from tropical jungle, gorgeous lakes and streams, perfect sandy beaches. Cairns is home to the famous Trinity Beach, a favourite spot with locals where you can see kangaroos out in the wild!


Cairns is another tropical paradise with loads to see and do if you enjoy the outdoors. It's a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, so while you're there you can check that out. If you're into wildlife or biology, you'll be in heaven in Cairns. 


There might not be as many jobs as other cities considering it's a lot smaller but there is a lot of tourism in this area meaning if you want a hospitality job, this is a good place to look. There are endless job oppurtunities in the various restaurants and hotels. 


While the minimum wage is quite low, so is the cost of living. A part-time job will likely be enough to get you through a working holiday giving you more time to travel around in your spare time. You can expect to pay around $173 per week for a room in a 2-3 bedroom apartment right in the city centre. 



Australia is a massive land mass with a several climates depending on where you are and the time of year you’re staying there. If weather is an important factor in your Australian working holiday, then you might want to know more about what the climate is like in various parts of the country. Check out this handy infographic breaking down the best places to visit depending on the season.



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So… what’s the verdict?

Sydney is usually the first place working holiday makers go because it’s the capital and it’s the obvious choice, especially if you don’t know much about other cities in Oz. It’s the best known and the most expensive choice but all in all has more employment opportunities.

Melbourne is often the second most popular choice. It attracts a lot of Europeans, particularly Irish and Brits because there are tonnes of jobs. It’s known for having a lot to offer when it comes to culture and arts but if you’re looking for year-round sunshine, you might want to look elsewhere, particularly in the winter months.

Brisbane is a popular choice for backpackers since it’s really sunny and hot all year round! Well, almost all year. It’s also very close to the Golden Coast, perfect for catching some rays and trying out water sports.

Perth might be isolated but it’s a booming city with lots going on… andv it’s just a three hour flight to Bali!

Adelaide is known as the city of churches and is a small city that’s perfect if you’re not really into the backpacker scene. If you want something more chilled out, Adelaide might be the place for you!

Cairns is a small city but it has an amazing tropical climate, so if you’re a sun worshipper, Cairns might be the best call. It’s also the main point of departure for the Great Barrier Reef so if that’s on your bucket list, this might be your chance to see it.

Darwin is pretty much as far north as you can go and as you know from our handy chart, it’s pretty damn hot up there. If you’re looking for the busy city vibe of Sydney or Melbourne, this won’t be a good choice but if the laid back beach life is your thing, then perfect!




We know that relocating to Australia can be expensive… but did you know that the average Australian tax refund is $2,600?

And if you want some help claiming a refund before your big trip, we help people all over the world claim refunds in 13 countries worldwide. If you’ve worked in Ireland, the UK, Canada, the US, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Australia, Denmark, Holland, Luxembourg or Japan, we can check if you’re due a refund and give you a free, no-strings-attached refund estimate.

About The Author

Stephanie Meagher - Content Creation Specialist @ Taxback.com

After graduating with a BA in Creative and Cultural Industries, I worked as a freelance content creator and blogger, that is before joining the Taxback.com team! When I'm not busy writing, I can be found enjoying the company of my four pugs or blogging about horror movies and podcasts.

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