Covid Moves More Australians Away From Cities. Will they come back?

Australian Letters is a weekly newsletter from our Australia office. Registration to get it by email. This week’s issue is written by Manan Luthraan intern in the Australian office.

If, during the past two years, you thought you would leave your Australian city of captivity to go free to a country town, you weren’t alone. A report released by the Australian Regional Institute last week found that in 2020 and 2021, net migration from state capitals to regional areas is more than double what it was in 2018 and 2019.

Queensland’s seaside towns are the destination of choice, with surfing communities on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast being the most popular. Sydney and Melbourne lost the most residents; nationwide, the main reasons given is the Covid-19 pandemic and the flexible working arrangements that come with it. (The report, based on customer data provided by a bank, described moving trends that were changing as a percentage, but did not give the underlying numbers.)

Living in Sydney for the past two years, subject to harsh restrictions such as being no more than three miles from my house, the allure of moving to a smaller town, lower risk of disease transmission and personal space multiply rather than obvious. I. To my Melbourne acquaintances, who have endured six confinement in two years, that appeal is just as obvious, if not more obvious.

But now, “Fortress Australia” is open. Visitors from other countries began arriving again on Monday; the rules around wearing masks, social distancing, and vaccine passports are being relaxed; and Australia’s most populous states are now encouraging workers back to their office. So where does that lead Australia’s New Area migrants to go? Will people who have left the big cities start coming back, and if not, what will it take to bring them back?

For Geoffrey Zach, a chartered accountant, that will take a lot. In April 2021, he, his wife and their 1-year-old son moved to Milawa, a town 3 hours drive from Melbourne.

They were looking for a home that was both spacious and affordable – his wife was expecting their second child – and a good job offer in the area made it an easy decision for them. Between the government-imposed lockdowns (even in Milawa) and life with a newborn, Zach still doesn’t feel settled there, but the family enjoys the country lifestyle and they have no plans plan to leave soon.

“Some of the things you miss out on are the availability of services and things like shopping, which is limited compared to Melbourne, but we enjoy easier commuting, fresh air and good food, ” I said. “It’s things like that, as well as Melbourne’s infrastructure problems and high housing costs, that make me say we’ll stay here.”

Such sentiments are shared by Sally Judson, who during the pandemic moved from Sydney, where she attended university, to Bogan Gate, the New South Wales village where she grew up, and back. She has been staying in Sydney since November for an internship, but she hopes to spend more time at Bogan Gate in the future, as she moves further in her legal career. She said the “beauty of regional Australia, the passion of the community and the opportunity to return to the family farm” drew her back home.

Will such Australians’ affection for small-town life outlast the Covid crisis, in which domestic tourism has strongly recommended and the strictly enforced work-from-home requirements, are uncertain. Liz Allen, a demographer and lecturer at the Australian National University, says that “for some migrants, life is better outside the confines of the city, and they are likely not going to return. .

“But cities in Australia will soon start to see a reversal of the Covid exodus,” she continued. “Cities will again become a livable place, not necessarily because of what they offer, but because of what the region does not: higher education, healthcare, job opportunities, quality of life. living.”

So what should we think about Australia’s Covid migration? Does it suggest a long-term trend?

For Dr. Allen, no.

“As time goes on, cities will gain traction again,” she said. “Over the next three years, migration out of cities will become a blip, affecting Australia’s demographic history.”

Now the stories of the week: Covid Moves More Australians Away From Cities. Will they come back?

Fry Electronics Team

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