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Lure of cities too strong for regional Australia to keep migrants

Over four decades, country towns have mostly failed to retain migrants, according to the most comprehensive snapshot of Australian migration ever collated.

And this trend of migrants moving to the cities appears to be increasing, despite repeated government efforts to make life in the regions more appealing.

Professor James Raymer, who led a team of Australian National University (ANU) researchers to collect and refine almost 40 years of data, said migrants in a regional or remote area have a “very low chance” of staying in that area, and this pattern has been “very consistent over time”.

“Most will leave within a five-year period, over half, if not 70 per cent, will leave, and if they’re going to stay in Australia they’re going to go to one of the big cities, probably Sydney or Melbourne,” he said.

“What we actually see in the data, the chances of them leaving remote and regional areas has been increasing for a lot of the newer migrant groups.”

Same access to services

Immigration Minister David Coleman is confident the new visas will attract migrants to regional communities and keep them there.

“We want skilled migrants to settle in regional areas long-term and want to ensure they are not disadvantaged compared to permanent migrants in our major cities,” he said.

The visas require migrants to work in regions on temporary visas for three years before they are eligible for permanent residency.

Proposed laws will give these temporary visa holders the same access to welfare and government services as permanent visa holders.

“This Government will continue to back those migrants who commit to living and working in regional areas, to support local economies and contribute to regional communities,” Mr Coleman said.

Details of the visas are still emerging, as the Department of Home Affairs holds briefings with migration agents and lawyers around the country.

However, the Migration Institute of Australia has criticised the decision to require regional-based migrants to earn $53,900 a year in order to qualify for permanent residency.

“The requirement to earn this level of income for three years is not reasonable given the already suppressed nature of rural economies struggling with drought and diminishing investment.”

New glimpse of internal migration

The ANU data is the most comprehensive picture of regional migration ever collected in Australia.

Across 47 regions and 19 nationality groups, the project tracks who has moved where every year back to 1981.

It finds that regions in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have the lowest rates of retention of migrants.

Professor Raymer said his study also found that, for the most part, people were becoming increasingly settled.

“The likelihood of us moving in Australia has been decreasing, so we’re less likely to make moves across Australia these days as we were in the 1980s.”

Source ABC News

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