Voice of Real Australia: The loss of backpackers and the tight housing market are hurting regional employers

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Job hunting does not, as a rule, spark joy. That said, as much as some people like to have a whinge about the boss after work down the pub or over a coffee with a mate, generally we rock up, do our job, and head home.

But what if you're the boss or the business owner? Worse, what if you're chronically understaffed but you're not getting any applicants for your job vacancies?

Last week on Race to the Regions we looked at the impact increased house prices is having on regional Australia. Last year working from home became the norm not the exception for many knowledge workers. This occurred as rolling lockdowns saw millions of Australians restricted from leaving their home except for food and exercise.

Considering the size of inner-city apartments it's no surprise that regional cities and towns with their spacious backyards started to seem increasingly attractive to capital city residents. Anywhere within a couple of hours of the coast or a capital city saw an influx of remote workers, ready to take advantage of affordable housing and plenty of space.

As always, there is a cause, and an effect. The rush to regional communities by the work from home brigade has had a significant impact on the price and availability of housing.

This knock on effect has seen many small businesses, particularly those that rely on seasonal or casual workers struggle to find staff. So where too now for regional areas?

How can industries such as tourism which has boomed with local visitors keep up with this new demand for services without staff? And can the new businesses being set up to meet new demand for local services and products adapt? As always there's no one answer to this dilemma being faced by businesses across the country, but there is also hope. Australia has a reputation for innovation and regional Australia and regional businesses have always had to adapt to thrive.

Before slashie became a term popular amongst Gen Z, used to describe those who had multiple income streams, it was the norm for many regional families. Relying on one income, or one crop has never been the safest bet and so they diversify.

As with all boom periods, the growth is never evenly balanced so as we struggle to adjust to the influx of new residents and housing demand we also need to find a way to adapt the employment opportunities for employees and employers.

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