Rural youth’s flight to the city

They hung a sign up in our town
“if you live it up, you won’t
live it down”
So, she left Monte Rio, son
just like a bullet leaves a gun

Hold On, Tom Waits

Since the dawn of cities, young people have left farms, small towns and regional centres for someplace bigger.

And one or two days later, adults set up policies and programs to retain youth in the country.

In this series of short posts, I review how young people are faring in regional Western Australia.  Are we retaining our youth and, when we do, are we really doing them any favours?  What is keeping regional youth occupied and how do they compare to their peers living in capital cities?

My focus is the vast tract of beaches, agricultural land and desert I call home–the Mid West and Gascoyne.  At 602,000 sq km, it is nearly as large as Texas and two and a half times bigger than Victoria but only has 63,000 people.

In 2010, 372 young people aged 19-23 year olds lived in the Gascoyne and 2579 lived in the Mid West.  By 2011 more than 1 out of every four of those Gascoyne youth were no longer living in the region.  In only one year, the Gascoyne lost one-quarter of its young people.

Mid West was better at retaining youth.  Still, more than one out of ten had left during the year. In percentage terms the leaving rate was 26% and 11%.  By comparison, only 4% of youth in the greater Perth area had moved away in that time.

My next post will look at regional youth’s record of completing schooling.

The data come from the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s 2011 Census. I use the excellent TableBuilders Pro program on the ABS website to generate the tables.

Thank you to Alan Bradley, CEO of the Regional Development Australia Mid West Gascoyne for commissioning this profile of regional youth.

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