How the pandemic could make regional workforces more resilient

How the pandemic could make regional workforces more resilient

Coronavirus
LOOK LOCAL: Large regional employers will need to source labour locally.

LOOK LOCAL: Large regional employers will need to source labour locally.

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Regional Australia could have a more resilient and localised workforce once the pandemic has passed.

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REGIONAL Australia could have a more resilient and localised workforce once the pandemic has passed, with large employers forced to renew their efforts to source local labour.

The nation's unemployment rate increased marginally to 5.2 per cent, however that figure only takes into account the first two weeks of March and is expected to soar into the double digits in the coming weeks.

Regional Australia Institute chief economist Kim Houghton said despite the hardship being felt now, there could be silver lining for rural communities going forward.

So far there has been a "cataclysmic fall" in the number of hospitality and tourism jobs advertised, and only a small dip for regional industries such as agriculture and mining.

"Those industries still have jobs to fill, so I reckon there will be an increase in the regionalisation of labor markets," Mr Houghton said.

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Rather than mines relying on fly-in fly-out workers, food processors relying on 457 visas and fruit pickers relying on backpackers, regional businesses may have to "turn inward".

"We're going to have to start growing our own labor market and making sure a larger percentage of the regional workforce is local," Mr Houghton said.

"I've had conversations with a lot of large regional employers and this is something they're all looking at.

"For a long time, we've relied on the theory 'people go where the jobs are'. But that whole model relies on mobility.

"Without mobility, there is a real question whether that model can still work."

Although the transition would be difficult in the short term, it could pay dividends for regional communities.

"If it helps make regions and labor markets more resilient, and more likely to grown our own, that's got to be a good thing for the long term," Mr Houghton said.

"Hopefully, it will also reinvigorate regional training, learning and education."

The latest available regional-specific data shows there were just over 41,000 job vacancies in February. Regional Queensland (11,937), regional NSW (10,666) and regional Victoria (5669) led the way.

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