Sydney, once rated in the top 10 most liveable cities ranking, conducted annually by Mercer, is no longer in top 10. Sydney is the kind of city that you’ll fall in love at first sight. A beautiful harbour view with the buzz of city life which can rightly term itself the New York city of Asia-Pacific region for its diversity in demographics and being the financial epicentre in the region.
Sydney — billed by the Australian department of immigration as a multi-cultural city, is in fact a deeply segregated city by suburbs. This is akin to Chicago or Detroit or any other metropolitan city where the central business district buzzes with activity during the day with an eclectic mix of people only to be deserted during the night as the economically well-off crowd commute back to their homes in respective suburbs.
If you take Australian Census data of 2016 and even more profound since the Census, the retiring white crowd in slow and raising numbers prefer to cash in on their property sale and move towards central coast of NSW or a different part of the Country in search of a more peaceful life away from the relatively fast paced city life.
Sydney, like any major city has its trap in the form of employment opportunities and an agreeable climate. It also breeds selfishness and a self-centred lifestyle of people. It thrives on its magnetic effect on new immigrants and provides a suitable platform for the can-do crowd. It turns out to be a ruthless place for aged people or people on lower income. Work-life balance depends on the organisation/sector and the cost of living is very high as the minimal employable hourly wage is at AU$19 (at the time of writing) and if you are unable to get a bank loan to buy a property within your budget, you’d end up renting for a long period of time. Rents are expensive and can eat up to 60% or more of combined family or single income.
The public education system in Australia is in a limbo due to the influence of the Catholic Church on the State. Sydney has its fair share of top independent private schools, Catholic religious schools and a high number of selective high schools that is funded by the State Government. The independent and Catholic schools are heavily subsidised by the Federal Government in spite of them attracting additional tuition costs from Parents belonging to higher socio-economic group. The public education system in Australia is a separate topic in itself and NSW State Government funds these selective high schools to make quality education affordable to lower socio-economic groups. In reality, the admission statistics paint a different story.
Sydneysiders attitude towards education is being competitive. Sydney does not represent the Australian mindset as it is a multi-cultural city and has influence of dominant migrant communities. This will come as a rude surprise if you are from the parts of the world where you treat your peers as mates and not as competitors. When I mentioned Sydney is deeply segregated, Census data will show you how immigrant nationalities concentrate in suburbs that have higher number of residents that match their nationality.
For example, in the western Sydney suburb of Westmead, the suburb is dominated in a lopsided way by the Indian community. Across the A44 highway, the suburb of Merrylands has its dominant share of people from middle-eastern countries. The local public schools are dominated by the demographics while the higher socio-economic group admit their children to private or Catholic schools in their neighbourhood. The so-called egalitarianism of Australian society is a joke in Sydney and represents segregation right from schooling years. The real estate is also priced based on the community as well as its proximity to priced Schools. The real-estate differs in other areas or immediately in areas outside of the school catchment zone.
One of the attractive points in moving to a country like Australia is its affordable public health system for all permanent residents and citizens. The mentality to privatise public institutions has slowly crept in to the society. Private health organisations compete with public institutions. There is a large presence of Insurance companies operating out of Sydney that offer professional liability insurance (from being sued for any misdeed), obscure health insurances and other types. This reminds me of the American society and its litigative nature and how these insurance companies make their money on the “psychology of fear”.
Though Australian immigration is considered as streamlined, it has its own downfall. The rate of influx of new immigrants is at 100,000 per year in cities like Melbourne and Sydney (that’s about 250 to 300 new arrivals per day). These cities cannot cope with the constant influx of people as their Councils (local government authority) and other public institutions operate at a different pace.
Immigration is in fact a streamlined business in Australia and people are commodities. If there is no demand to match supply, then increase the demand in the form of new arrivals. The more and more influx of people and lack of diversified opportunities elsewhere in the Country, combined with the disconnected nature of operation between various Government departments add to the woe. Public transport and public schools are over crowded with peak time commutes being miserable and playgrounds being turned in to spaces to accommodate temporary dismantle classrooms, respectively. This robs the valuable playtime opportunity for children.
Many public institutions are stressed to their limits and the waiting list to get treated for certain public funded procedures in hospitals is also high — as the population continues to grow in Sydney. It requires a highly coordinated effort from the Federal, State and Local Government Authorities to raise the liveable standard in the city.
Sydney is quite stressful place due to its hyper-competitive nature and people considering people as competitors and not as mates. This character does not represent the ideal Australian nature. Australian nature in general is quite laid back and in fact the multi-generation Aussies will regret the unlivable transformation of their world city, Sydney.
I can only hope different Government departments get their act together and restore the living standards in Sydney. Immigration will be a problem as long as the lack of policy and coordination between different Government agencies remains and as long as they continue to remain under-funded and under-staffed.
Lack of diversified employment opportunities across Australia means the safe bet for opportunity for new immigrants is its major city. The real estate mafia and construction lobby will continue to reap the fruits until the Australian Government develops and implements a long term plan.