Asia

Working Lives: Sydney

Australia ranks as one of the best places to live in the world and Sydney is its biggest city. But what is it like to work there? Aaron Heslehurst has been to Sydney to meet a diverse range of the city's workers to find out.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionJames Agnew, winemaker

James Agnew, 42, decided in 2007 to leave his lucrative law job and build a family business which he hopes he can pass on to the next generation.

He went into wine-making with his father and together they have created a thriving business, with three separate wine labels, producing 750,000 bottles a year.

After he stopped practising law in Sydney, James got a Masters of Wine Business degree and says he hasn't looked back.

"I love the agricultural aspect of the work and being outside working on the land," he says.

James says the goal is to create a legacy for his family that will last for generations.

His sister joined the family business too and although his children are still young - his oldest is only six - he hopes they will carry on the tradition.

But it has not always been an easy road. James says that although the Hunter Valley, where his winery is situated, is a fertile wine region, business has taken a hit in recent years.

"People have an image of Australian wine as being cheap and cheerful, sunshine in a bottle, but the reality is the product is evolving," he says.

He explains that international sales have dropped from nearly 30% of his yearly sales a few years ago, down to under 10% today due to weak and unstable global markets and also the strength of the Australian dollar, which has driven costs up.

Australia's mining boom, although good for the economy overall, has also worked against his industry by siphoning workers away from wine-making.

James says that his domestic sales have been steady, but he now has the task of repositioning his product and its place in the international market, which will take some time.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBec and Bridge, fashion designers

Becky Cooper and Bridget Yorston, both 33, are the two women at the helm of the popular Bec and Bridge fashion label who met on their first day of fashion school in 2000 and have been inseparable ever since.

They have come a long way from their modest beginnings making customised jeans for their friends in fashion school.

Over a decade later, their designs regularly grace the runways of Australia Fashion Week and the label is gaining ground overseas as well.

TV reality star Kim Kardashian was recently spotted in one of their designs and their distinctly Australian lines of women's clothing are now stocked by 300 stores all over the world including international department stores like Neimen Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales.

Inside their trendy Sydney studio, the two now oversee a successful and growing business with 14 full-time employees and a loyal following of fashionistas both in Australia and abroad.

Bridget says their clothes, which are 90% Australian made, are "young and chic and made for a girl that loves to follow fashion, and who wants to be in the latest styles and colours".

Global sales now make up 40% of their business - the US is their biggest overseas market - and they say foreign demand is growing.

"The US loves Australian brands, with the colour and the lifestyle coming through in the clothes," Bridget says. "People that are into fashion are aware of Australian brands and are attracted to it."

She explains that the pair did not set out to have their own fashion label, but they had a strong foundation in their friendship and things have evolved naturally.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMichael Cowan, miner

Michael Cowan, 43, comes from a long line of coal miners.

Going to work underground and emerging at the end of a long day covered in soot is a way of life he grew up with.

After stints working as a builder and a fundraiser, he says he was on the edge of financial ruin. He needed to find a job that offered him and his family more financial stability which is why he decided to follow in his great-grandfather's footsteps and go to work in the mines.

Three years ago, Michael began working as a roof bolter in the Myuna coal seam mine, deep under Lake Macquarie in New South Wales.

It is hard work, and he knows it is risky but says he loves the work and feels safe doing it.

Now he and his family can look forward to the future and afford the things they need, like dental braces for his daughter and repairing their house, which they could never have afforded before.

"I feel lucky to have this job," he says. "A few years ago, work like this was easy to come by, now it's almost impossible. My new boss told me I'd been punched in the arm by a rainbow."

However, as Australia's mining boom slows down, mining jobs are harder to find and Michael says he has watched lots of his friends lose their jobs with no new ones on the horizon.

Michael says he is worried about job security and is studying for a mine manager's course and trying to gain as many skills as he can to help safeguard his position and the stability that comes with it.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionGrant O'Keefe, water taxi driver

Grant O'Keefe started working in Sydney Harbour when he was just 15 years old. Nearly four decades later, he says it is all he knows.

Back then, he says, jobs on the harbour were in shipping.

Over the years, he has watched those jobs disappear as business on the harbour evolved away from shipping and into tourism, and he says he knew he needed to adapt as well.

He got into the water taxi business about six years ago, and business has been good enough for him to buy his own 21-person boat.

What he loves about his job, he says, is that his office changes every day.

"Whether it's raining or windy or sunny, it's always something new and I get a kick out of the different people I drive," he says.

The people who step aboard his boat want to do everything from sightseeing to hosting weddings or scattering ashes and although it is not the most lucrative profession, he says he never gets tired of the job.

"You don't get into the business to make money," he says. "It's expensive to maintain my boat and work can be spotty, but I can pay the bills and I get to live the lifestyle I want. Plus you can't teach an old dog new tricks."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWen Chen, student

Wen Chen, 25, moved to Sydney in 2013 from Jiang Xi Province in Central China in search of opportunity. She studied tourism and English in Hainan University in China where she was working at a bank until a few years ago.

Wen admits that she was lucky to get a job in China, but it wasn't what she wanted to be doing.

She dreamed of working in tourism or journalism so decided to go abroad to further her studies in Australia.

Her parents were reluctant to let her give up a stable job and move to a foreign country, but she convinced them that she was not living the life she wanted in China and they agreed to let her go.

She says she had heard that life in Australia was less competitive than in China and after living here she thinks that is true.

"I love how open things are in Australia and how there are lots of different ideas here."

Once she arrived in Sydney, she also found that she loved the culture.

"I love the nature here. I like bushwalking and the beach," she says. "Most people in China aren't into the beach and sunshine culture."

Wen completed a masters degree in translation and is now finishing her second masters in media and communications from the University of New South Wales.

In order to pay for her living expenses she has two jobs on campus. One as a student ambassador and another helping to answer questions from prospective students.

She says she is excited to graduate but also nervous. She knows it will be difficult but is hopeful she will be able to stay here in Australia and get a job in her field.