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Archive for July, 2012

Manjimup – Life on the other side of the boom

Posted by cegan on July 31, 2012

Manjimup is on the other side of the mining boom in Western Australia. Other than a slight rise in the 15-24 year olds, the demographics for Manjimup continues to show some concerns for the government and council.

In 2006 the population of Manjimup was 4239, by 2011 the population census within the town centre had only risen to 4293. While other regional areas to the north have found strong population growth within town centres, this has not happened within Manjimup.

What is the more startling data from the census is that in 2006 there was 2160 Females and in 2011 there was 2060 Females. While the Male population had increased from 2079 to 2133 people.

As in the Wheatbelt, Filipinos represent a new port of call nation becoming resident within the town. Most are likely to be Single Males and they represented 50% of the population growth between 2006-2011.

So it does show that towns in the south-west and the Wheatbelt are resorting to migration to fill in the skilled vacancies within the workforce. It also shows theneed for governments to invest in more training infrastructure as the economy increasingly requires skilled workers rather than unskilled workers.

Filipinos are moving into Western Australia’s resource industry throughout the state. As Filipino women often move abroad to work to subsidise their families income, this cultural move is somewhat expected of many women, but now Male Filipinos are in high demand throughout the state.

These Male Filipino Migrants would be subsisdising families within the Phillipines, but also many would see the opportunities to bring families out if they believe their employment is secure.

With the greying of the population, Manjimup will require more families to move into town to continue the economic growth of the centre. Lone Houseperson households have shown the strongest growth, indicating elderly people living by themselves after a partner dies and also the increase of single male trade workers.

In 2006 24.5% lived in lone households, by 2011 473 had done so. Cheap rent of $150 per week for a 2 bedroom unit available today, shows how it would attract single people struggling to live in other parts of the state that had strong migration to their communities.

It also provides opportunities for the Federal/State Government to trial apprenticeship/rent schemes for young men and women to work in towns such as Manjimup. In terms of those waiting on Public Housing lists in the city, or looking for work in the city there could be a register where towns with cheap cost of living and clear skilled labour needs are moved into these towns to reduce housing pressure in other parts of the state and provide an economic boost to regions that aren’t feeling the same stimulus as other regions. It also provides an opportunity for these young people to gain increased economic independence.

The increased Filipino and male population indicates it is trade orientated work that is demanded within the town. The growth in this agricultural region is growing on the same path as Renmark in South Australia, a town I mentioned in the Wheatbelt census stats. But unlike Renmark there has been an increase in Australian born residents from 3,432 to 3,502. One of the biggest decline has been in residents who were born in England who have fallen from 227 to 205.

It also seems the Afghani population within town, who were most likely refugees have moved elsewhere. In 2006 there was 15 people who spoke Persian within town, by 2011 it was no longer in the census statistics. A sign of the recent refugee intake coming into town is the Tamils, with 11 people now speaking Tamil within the community which was previously not represented.

For towns like Dalwallinu, who are planning a refugee re-population plan future census results from Manjimup will be invaluable to understanding whether they have found regional areas an attractive place to live.

While its clear there are challenges ahead, Manjimup has the bonus of having cheap rentals and a clear need for trade workers as the mining boom attracts workers who previously lived in town.

With decling home ownerships and those who have a mortgage, this corresponds to only a $105 a week increase in average wage growth, compared to an $111 increase over the last five years around Australia.

With wage growth being below the Australian average in a period of economic strength within Western Australia, it shows the mining boom has not impacted Manjimup and that government intervention is needed to ensure that this is shared to the people of Manjimup.

State and Federal reform though can stimulate it and other similar towns within Western Australia through with carefully designed housing/trade apprenticeship program, designed to utilise the cheap residential rental costs and the demand for labour.

A large Trade College would also prove attractive for people throughout the South-West Region centred on Manjimup. With 4 bedroom houses currently renting out at $350 a week, students/Apprentices would be paying far less than other regions of the south-west where tourism has created higher rents, particularly on the coast.

Manjimup is strategically located to all of the larger growth centres within the region. Private/State Government Partnership to develop something would be in both the private sector and Governments interest. It is cheaper to recruit locally than interstate and international for private enterprise. They are also more likely to stay in their job.

With extremely cheap living conditions, a population that has culturally been working with tools and economic restructuring within town due to the decline of Dairy and Forestry it is an opportunity for Business/Government to take advantage in a non boom town with lower outlays than in the majority of the rest of Western Australia.

The last census statistics show that Manjimup is not receiving anywhere near the economic stimulus of the Wheatbelt from the mining boom. In addressing this two speed economy in the state, government funding is required to ensure that Manjimup’s wage growth doesn’t continue to grow at a lower rate than the National average. Which is clearly unacceptable considering Western Australia is going through the greatest economic boom since the 1890’s Gold Rush.

Chris Egan


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GST needs to get beyond ‘price floor’ rhetoric

Posted by cegan on July 26, 2012

The GST is like the Eurozone, its clear that unfettered regulations is distorting the picture. But it can’t be solved with a simple ‘price floor’.

Some states are clinging to it, to support their budget, others are seeing it being taken away in huge chunks. It has now become a major issue on the western seaboard, but with a rather simplistic debate to change it.

Now I am a fan of horizontal fiscal equalisation, but with a regulatory component that should be brought in to ensure fairness and other states encouraged to economically reform.

Just like the Eurozone have done with Greece, we need to do with Tasmania. Rather than subsidising Tasmania and they just use the funds to pay off debt.

Because unlike the Eurozone, we suffer from fiscal conservatism on a wide scale and an unhealthy obcession with AAA ratings. As a Western Australian I released the difference between the budgets of South Australia and Western Australia earlier this year in a  blog, revenue from the Commonwealth is decreasing rapidly.

But its also sacrificing GST money because they have not axed taxes to increase state revenue, when they could have done so. Instead these taxes are being spent on a large, impressive infrastructure renewal program.

Now tax raising is an option that is too hard for most governments. But infrastructure commitments need to also be looked at. State Governments should not be disadvantaged in GST receipts, just because they have chosen to spend more on infrastructure than in State Tax cuts.

So how do we resolve the issue?

Either a wider scale look at where the revenues for each state is coming from, the level of infrastructure development they are undertaking (eg stimulating the economy and GST Dollars) and the unilateral tax rates across the boards

Or they take into account infrastructure spending into the GST calculations, if a state is prepared to go into debt to develop infrastructure, while another state is not. Where is the fairness? That state waits for Federal Government handouts, the other one builds infrastructure that delivers better economic and GST dollars, while the other continues to placate a mediocre pathway forward.

Just like the Eurozone, there is a dire need for reform. WA Labor and Liberal simply saying ‘GST’ Floors over-simplifies a more complex debate that needs to be made for the benefit of all Australian’s.

Chris Egan


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Golden Bay becomes magnet for FIFO workers.

Posted by cegan on July 24, 2012

This blog is the demographic changes happening within my home town Golden Bay. I have lived here for most of the last 17 years and contrasting to this blog, I am not a FIFO worker. Golden Bay is a coastal suburb 68km south west of Perth.

The recent census has shown a household income growth within the town of 50%. While 44% of the suburb’s population growth has been from 25-54 year olds and of the 303 extra people within the suburb 60% are men. Indicating the suburb’s growth is largely being fostered by the state’s insatiable demand for trade workers due to the mining boom.

The big story in Golden Bay is the astronomical growth in household income. In 2006 the Household income was 1070 by 2011 the median household income was 1604 a week. A 50% increase in household income in just five years.

The income growth for the residents is all the more remarkable when you consider that rents are still below the national average as they were in 2006. In 2006 the median rental price in Golden Bay was $170, this had risen to $270 by 2011 but still below the 2011 Australian rental median of $285.

As Rents rose by $100 over five years, the household income rose $504 and the results have been an increase in house ownership as the residents of this outer metropolitan suburb’s income increases, while rents remain below the national average – Something of an economists dream.

While property prices have retracted since the boom, the incomes have grown which creates an important policy conundrum.

Much policy advice is that outer metropolitan regions will become defacto ghettos as infrastructure lags the speed of development blocks. This has not occurred in Golden Bay and has involved an increase in living standards as rents have grown at only a fifth of the rate as median household incomes, with a relatively plentiful supply of land and housing acting as a deflationary pressure on house prices and rents.

As Golden Bay is at the very south-western corner of the Perth metropolitan region it provides some contrasting information to that common held view.

However it could be that it indicates to state government that infrastructure is responding to growth in the outer metropolitan districts and thus the impediments to increased living standards are being alleviated.

The results have been an increase in people aged between 25-54. The increase in people in this age group consists of half the population growth within the suburb. Delivering the indication that it is increasingly favoured by young workers.

However if we disect the results further, we can see that only 40% of the increased population can be accounted by additional females, with 60% of the population increase being males. This disproportionate increase is normally attributed to male dominated employment such as mining and trades.

The dramatic increase in wages of households, can be largely attributed to the huge  growth in wages of male dominated industries that dominate the community. The last ABS census said that Golden Bay had one of the highest proportion of tradies in Western Australia with more than a third of the workforce.

English, New Zealand migrants now make up a larger proportion of the population, but unlike the wheatbelt, migration has not come from new ports of call.

The population growth indicates that lifestyle and coastal regions in outer metropolitan regions are attractive to FIFO workers and that communities throughout Western Australia, including in outer metropolitan regions will continue to distort the national picture of outer metropolitan decline.

Despite the increase in income, the suburb continues to remain affordable for those not being impacted by the mining boom, noted by the rather mundane increase in rental prices. Something of a rarity in towns/suburbs that become home to these workers.

Chris Egan


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Wheatbelt diversifies its economy and attracts migrants.

Posted by cegan on July 23, 2012

The recent 2011 census has seen many news articles on the recent growth in incomes/rents and population growth, but we haven’t seen much on the stories that show us big changes in the traditional economic/demographic story within Western Australia.

One of the biggest stories I’ve found within my research, is the growth of migration from South Africa, Phillipines and China into many of the town centres of the wheatbelt. These are the census stats of those living within the towns, so they typically wouldn’t be farmers.

From anecdotal evidence, Filipinos and South Africans are favoured to sponsor in many engineering businesses when they come over. This is how the wheatbelt town centres are feeling the ‘mining boom’.

When visiting one business for the Department of Commerce last year, one business owner in Northam responded about their growth allowing increased apprenticeships for young ” Ha, nah we get all of them from the Phillipines, most of the young kids will go straight up north as soon as they have finished their apprenticeship”.

Now that creates other interesting ‘reality checks’ for the union movement, WA Labor policy (who reckon we needs mandates and ancient policy to increase local content) but I am going to look at those stories another time, this is  purely a demographic article.

Of the 217 Filipinos in the Central Wheatbelt region, 74 live within the Town of Northam, or 1.1% of the population and higher than the state and national average. So we have a really interesting story being told about the diversification of Northam and other regions in the Wheatbelt.

If we compare that with the 2006 census, Northam’s Filipino population has exploded from not rating a mention to being home to 34% of Filipinos living within the Central Wheatbelt .

Of the five top countries of birth outside of Australia, the Phillipines is not mentioned and the languages spoken at home did not include Tagalog or Filipino, the national languages of the Phillipines.

South African’s have also led the boom to Northam. In 2006 South Africans were not in the top 5 nations of birth other than Australia in Northam, now they sit in 5th spot. Afrikaans is their language of choice, which was not even in the top five languages in 2006.

Merredin’s town centre growth in population of 347 from 2550 in 2006 to 2897 in 2011 has incorporated a huge growth in the Chinese population within town. Around 20% of the population growth can be attributed to Chinese migrants.

In 2006  the top 5 locations of birth outside of Australia did not incorporate China and Shona was the fifth most spoken language at home with 3. In 2011 China was the nation of third highest proportion of the population who were born overseas and both Mandarin and Tagalog which had previously not shown up in the previous census made it in 2011.

As the mining boom goes on the demand for labor is diversifying regions that traditionally couldn’t attract migrants.  The town centres often lost population due to the reduction in size of farming and more importantly a bad cropping season would cause economic issues for the entire season. Now when the farmers go on holiday in January, there will be businesses still providing services and retail for those in the growing engineering sector.

Communities become more multi-cultural, with more languages, religions which then attracts more migration growth and business opportunities for regions that will be impacted by future climate change.

This is the legacy of the mining boom, as steel fabrication is demanded across the state, migrants are moving in and providing increased stimulus to towns that would otherwise not have had the diversification, nor the population increase.

An example of this is Renmark, a large agricultural town in South Australia. In 2006 the population of the town was 4339, this had grown by only 48 people to 2011 and a population of 4387.

While Renmark had a doubling of Indians being born overseas, they replaced Australian’s who were born in the country with the Australian born population falling from 3477 to 3307. Which indicates regional settlement incentives by the Federal Government are supporting the otherwise economic and population decline of an important town node in the Riverlands.

As the media goes on about population, wealth and rents, its missing the bigger picture – significant analysis of demographic changes within communities, particularly those which need to change due to climate change.

Chris Egan


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Twitter Page

Posted by cegan on July 22, 2012

Regular readers who want to be kept updated on when the next blog is written can keep a check on @perthforever. Next blog is on the recent unveiling of the census and how the media in Western Australia has ‘forgotten’ the hidden story of international migration/demographic changes. 

So follow me @perthforever 

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Getting beyond the simplistic message ‘that aussies won’t travel west’.

Posted by cegan on July 7, 2012

I’ve been doing my own research in recent days and questioning whether this media message that Australian’s aren’t as flexible in moving to where the jobs are as Americans are. So I’ve looked at comparisons between us and North Dakota. In the year to May 2012 27,400 jobs were created in North Dakota but the population only grew by around 9000. The conditions in the Oil fields of Western North Dakota during winter is as harsh as the Summer sun is in Marble Bar.

While Census surveys show strong migration to the Pacific North West from other parts of the United States, these are city like nodes that attract workers and have had a huge increase in Technology based jobs. Not harsh conditions with ever rising cost of living pressures. There are still surplus office towers and declining real estate prices. But the results in North Dakota mirror what is happening in Western Australia.

Williams County has an unemployment rate of 0.7% as of May 2012 and had the strongest population growth of 8.8% in the state. But there are still 2000 unfilled jobs in the county and a severe housing shortage due to the strong immigration. The last census showed that the Shire of East Pilbara had grown the fastest in the country over the last five years, another region with low unemployment and low housing supply.

So people in both the USA and Australia are moving to where the jobs are, but harsh conditions, lifestyle changes (eg swapping city living for rural living) and most particularly living costs are preventing stronger population growth and the filling of the thousands of jobs on offer in the Pilbara and North Dakota. The United States is in far worse shape economically than Australia, but they are still suffering skill shortages and battling to attract people to the harsh conditions.

So this statement from the Kloppers the CEO of BHP has to be looked at in context.

“Arguably the biggest challenge that we’ve got is labour mobility. People simply are not not willing enough to move to Western Australia.”( SMH June 6th)

They are willing to move, they have moved in huge numbers relative to the past population in the region. Housing is the issue, if miners won’t build the housing stock, they won’t come. The old saying – Build them and they will come is never more apt than for the current issues in both North Dakota and Western Australia.

“Mr Kloppers said he believed moving workers in Canada and the US interstate was easier because of the cultural contrast, where students tend to be sent away from home to study” (SMH June 6th 2012)

Well as the statistics in Americs is showing, there is strong migration to the Pacific North West where there is high demand for IT jobs and the smart economy, but in North Dakota the migration is lagging and the unemployment rate is being dragged down by workers who live in the state and were previously unemployed just as what is happening in Western Australia.

It’s an important debate to be had to clarify the issue, because essentially its in their interest for mining companies to blame someone else such as the government to increase foreign migration to work here. While I am not opposed to that and much of the caimpaign against it reeks of xenophobia, we have to not allow mining companies to say ‘people won’t move west so we need to increase foreign intake of workers’.

It also allows the governments, both Federal and State to not implement policies to reduce cost of living pressures in the mining regions. While in North Dakota Oil companies are directly providing funding in tax credits for affordable housing policy, in Western Australia there is no onus on large mining companies to deliver similar or no government policy to do so.

You will then find ‘Aussie’s will move west’ just as what will happen if North Dakota is able to house the people that are needed to fund the oil boom in the state.

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