Regional workforce crisis holding back national growth

New figures released today from the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) reveal 90% of survey respondents say regions don’t have the right skills needed to fill the growing number of roles available in towns and cities across the country.

With the latest July job vacancy numbers at unprecedented levels of 86,900 roles, RAI CEO Liz Ritchie says the capacity of the regional workforce is falling well short of employer needs and the solution isn’t a quick fix.

“We welcome this week’s National Jobs and Skill Summit in Canberra and congratulate the Albanese Government for taking the lead on this critical national challenge. But ensuring we can ‘fill and skill’ in regional Australia requires big picture thinking,” Liz Ritchie said.

To ensure Australia’s regional workforce is ‘fit-for-purpose’ in the future, the RAI has identified Jobs and Skills as one of the 5 key pillars in its Regionalisation Ambition 2032 – A Framework to Rebalance the Nation, to be officially released at the National Summit in Canberra on 13-14 September.

To achieve the goal within the Jobs and Skills pillar, the Regionalisation Ambition 2032 sets out the following targets:

By 2032:

  •   Reduce the recruitment difficulty in regional Australia from 77% today to below 40%.
  •  Increase the share of skilled workers employed in regional Australia from 73% as at May 2022 to 80% of the regional workforce.
  • Increase the Year 12 school attainment rate of young people in regional Australia from an average of 65% today to 75% or above.
  •  Boost post-school qualification completion in regional Australia to 65% or above from 57% as at May 2021.

“The Regionalisation Ambition 2032 is an Australian first. At its core is the goal to shift the dial on what we know is holding our regions back from reaching their potential,” Liz Ritchie said.

“We need to ensure we can ‘grow from within’ and that regional workers have the learning pathways available locally to obtain the skills needed, to fill the roles available now and in the future.

“Our research tells us that when regional people are trained in the regions, they stay in the regions. This includes doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers, teachers and lawyers,” Liz Ritchie said.

While population movement to the regions dipped by 16.6% in June 2022, according to the Regional Movers Index, net migration to the regions remains 30.2% higher than the two years prior to COVID.

“To propel this growth, our regions require a greatly bolstered workforce compromising a combination of low to high-skilled labour,” Liz Ritchie said.

“Regional economies are now far more sophisticated than even 10 years ago providing a vast array of work and lifestyle opportunities to all Australians. With this shift we have witnessed the rise in professional skilled employment,” Ms Ritchie said.

“Meeting the complex jobs and skills needs of the regions requires a collaborative effort between all tiers of government, industry, and education and training providers.

In September, the RAI will launch the next phase of its national awareness campaign Move to More, aimed at promoting the opportunities to live, work and invest in the regions.

The campaign, More Jobs, More Opportunities, will dispel the myth that career advancement is sacrificed with a move to the country.

For more information about the RAI’s National Summit – Rebalancing the Nation, please click here.


Fact: In 2021, just over 70% of the population (15-74 years) living in our major cities had completed Year 12 compared to just under 50% in regional areas.

Fact: The proportion of skilled occupations in regional Australia has increased over the past two decades, from 67% in May 2001 to 73% in May 2022. In contrast, 79% of employment in our major capitals are skilled occupations.

Fact: The proportion of regional Australians with post-school qualification (15-74 years) in May 2021 was 57% compared to 64% in capital cities.  



For media enquiries contact:

Amanda Barwick

Ph: 0429142232


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