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Study identifies economically vulnerable regions

18 July 20140 comments

A new study has identified the regions around Australia most vulnerable to job losses and economic decline because of structural economic change.

The study, commissioned by the National Vocational Education and Training Research Program, found that manufacturing, health care and social assistance, and retail industries tend to dominate in the more economically vulnerable regions.

It found that mining and construction featured strongly in the least economically vulnerable regions, even though the cyclical nature of these industries can be seen as a challenge.

The study, titled Economic vulnerability in Australia 2002-12; an employment perspective, also found that some vulnerable regions do not have clearly dominant industries but instead a broader mix of industries.

“The impacts of structural economic changes are broad and sustained and tend to affect all employment in the region,” the researchers said.

Five indicators were used to determine the economic vulnerability of regions: the change in the average hours worked per region; the change in the total hours worked in each region; the extent of population change in a region; a simple index of structural or industry shift within a region across two time periods; and an index of turbulence within a region; that is, the extent to which people move from employment to unemployment, and from unemployment to employment.

The study identified regions most vulnerable to employment decline, including five in Victoria with high vulnerability ratings.

These included: Barwon-Western District, which saw a decline in average hours worked of 7.2 per cent; South Eastern Melbourne, which saw a decline of 6.1 per cent; Outer Eastern Melbourne, which saw a decline 5.6 per cent; Gippsland, which saw a decline of 4.3 per cent; and, Lodden-Mallee, which saw a decline of 4.2 per cent.

The regions least vulnerable to employment decline were Inner Melbourne and the central, eastern and south eastern suburbs of Perth.

Researchers Michelle Circelli and John Stanwick concluded that training efforts needed to be tailored to the needs of the region and, where an industry is in decline, may involve the retraining of workers and/or training and other assistance for the unemployed.

They said these efforts could also assist in increasing labour mobility in these regions.

The researchers said various assistance packages available in many of the more vulnerable regions were focused on improving employment in the region. However, there was very little evaluative data available on these packages by which to assess their success or otherwise, so their impact is not clear.

“In response to structural economic changes over the last ten years, the federal and state and territory governments have implemented various strategies designed to help revitalise industries, assist disadvantaged individuals to find work, or help retrenched or redundant workers to find other jobs,” the researchers said.

“A key issue this paper highlights is the dearth of publicly available information that elucidates how useful or successful various assistance packages have been for those who have lost their jobs, or for generating investment leading to job creation.

“In particular, the take-up of vocational education and training following job loss and the impact of this training in helping individuals to transition to new jobs, either in the same industry or in different industries, is not clear,” they said.