Funding needed to help rural and regional Victorian economy

By Rodney Woods

New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the impact COVID-19 and the January bushfires have had on employment across rural and regional Victoria.

The number of people employed outside metropolitan Melbourne fell by 20,800 between February and May, demonstrating the impact of rural and regional economies.

Driving this decline were employment falls in the Gippsland region, which saw the number of people employed drop by 11,200 between February and May, a fall of just under 10 per cent.

Despite the unemployment rate for regional and rural Victoria increasing to 4.9 per cent in May from 3.4 per cent a month earlier, it would have been far higher without the Federal Government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker support payments, according to the findings.

“The detailed Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that there are now an extra 18,400 rural and regional Victorians not in the labour market,” Rural Councils Victoria chair and Southern Grampians Shire councillor Mary-Ann Brown said.

“This is major blow to rural communities and we are calling on the state and federal government to do what they can to provide support.

“Research by Rural Councils Victoria shows that a job in a rural town with 1000 people or less has 37 times greater positive impact on local economies than a job in a regional city with a population of 100,000 or more.”

Cr Brown reiterated calls by Rural Councils Victoria for the state and federal governments to provide a $4 billion emergency package for rural Victoria, saying the package was crucial for rural communities, families, workers as well as food security and the health and wellbeing of Australians generally.