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Employment opportunities drive mobility across Australia to its highest point in five years

31 May 2023

Employment and business opportunities is driving record levels of movement between major cities and regional areas, the March quarter Regional Movers Index shows.

 More people in major cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are heading for a life in regional areas while the number of people moving from regional to the cities is also at its highest point in five years.

The Regional Movers Index is a partnership between Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Regional Australia Institute, which analyses the quarterly and annual trends in people moving to and from Australia’s regional areas.

Capital-to-regional migration has risen 7.9 per cent, its third highest level in the past five years. Most people moving to the regions came from Sydney, which accounted for 90 per cent of all net capital outflows. Net outflows from Melbourne also rose significantly, from 44 per cent to 51 per cent, in the 12 months to March 2023. However, Perth and Brisbane proved popular for movers, recording net inflows of 26 and 24 per cent, respectively.

Across the board, regional Victoria and Queensland were the key destinations for capital city movers, accounting for 43 per cent and 29 per cent share of net outflows respectively, in the 12 months to March 2023. Meanwhile the number of people moving to regional NSW fell, accounting for 23 per cent of net capital city outflows, down from 41 per cent in the prior period.

Commonwealth Bank Executive General Manager for Regional and Agribusiness Banking Paul Fowler said demand for labour was soaring in regional areas, driving a surge in mobility across the country and competition among employers for skilled workers.

Regional centres such as Greater Geelong in Victoria, the second most popular destination by share of migration, and tropical Townsville in Queensland’s north, the highest growth regional area, were buzzing with business and job opportunities.

Port Lincoln in South Australia, and Campaspe, Pyrenees and Moorabool in Victoria made up the other top five highest growth regional hotspots in the 12 months to March 2023.

“Regional centres are buzzing with business activity and investment, offering an abundance of opportunities to people who are seeking to leave the strain of cities to take advantage of the benefits of regional living,” Mr Fowler said.

“Greater Geelong is a fast-growing economy, where entrepreneurship and progress across a diverse range of sectors such as health, construction, manufacturing, tourism, is attracting more movers.

“Townsville is another regional powerhouse, where defence along with thriving manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors, is drawing more people from cities and other regional areas. Other popular areas such as Toowoomba in Queensland and Ballarat in Victoria are also wonderful locations with strong and varied economies.”

Regional Australia Institute (RAI) CEO Liz Ritchie said the results speak to the trend it is seeing on the ground of an increasingly mobile population in the wake of more job flexibility.

“While this mobility was super-charged by COVID, we are seeing thousands make the move, not only from the cities to the regions, but within regions and more recently, there has been an uptick in the number heading back to the cities.”

Ms Ritchie said with more moving to the regions, than back the other way, the bigger coastal centres remained popular but there was an increasing appetite to move further afield to smaller regional areas.

For example, Livingstone in the Capricornia region of Central Queensland exhibited the strongest growth in capital-to-regional growth in the 12 months to March 2023, followed by Port Lincoln in South Australia and Donnybrook-Balingup in Western Australia.

And there are no signs regional areas will fall out of favour anytime soon, Ms Ritchie said.

“Recent RAI research shows one-in-five metropolitan Australians are wanting to make the move to regional Australia with cost of living cited as the key reason as people try and source more affordable housing and a way of living.

“Cost of living pressures are also boosting greater movement within the regions themselves, as regional movers also search out places with more available and affordable housing.”

Cost of living is a contributing factor that has driven inter-regional migration to rise 9.2 per cent in the March quarter, to average 12.6 per cent above pre-pandemic levels. 

The top 10 most popular destinations by share (12 months to March 2023):

  • Sunshine Coast (+14.9%)
  • Greater Geelong (+8.0%)
  • Gold Coast (+7.8%)
  • Fraser Coast (+5.9%)
  • Bundaberg (+4.2%)
  • Moorabool (+4.1%)
  • Lake Macquarie (+3.3%)
  • Toowoomba (+3.3%)
  • Maitland (+3.0%)
  • Ballarat (+3.0%)

The top 5 destinations by growth were different, with Townsville topping the list recording a more than six-fold annual increase in internal net migration, followed by Port Lincoln in South Australia, and Campaspe, Pyrenees and Moorabool in Victoria.

Access the latest Regional Movers Index, March Quarter 2023.

Alexandra Macaulay
Regional Australia Institute
Ph: 0409 652 465
E: [email protected]

Commonwealth Bank Media
Ph: 02 9118 6919
E: [email protected]