Proof young Australians are fed up with our major cities

There is new evidence that young people are increasingly fed up with our Australian cities and are moving away in droves.

The rise in teleworking, the increased cost of living and the worsening rental and housing crisis have contributed to more young Australians leaving the capital cities – particularly Sydney and Melbourne – and moving to rural areas.

And it doesn’t look like this trend is slowing down anytime soon.

New data in the Regional Movers Index shows that in the third quarter of 2024, the number of city dwellers choosing to live in the region reached a 12-month high.

The report, by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), analyses trends in migration to and from Australia’s regional areas using data collected from the bank’s 16 million customers.

The data showed that 24.2 percent more people are moving from cities to regions than in the other direction.

People continue to be concentrated in the New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria regions. The eastern states accounted for 97 percent of net migration from capital cities to rural areas in the 12 months to March 2024, compared to 94 percent the previous year.

Of all the generations, it is the Millennials who are leading the mass exodus from big cities.

They are the group most likely to pack up their things in any capital city and move to the regions.

The city where young people most frequently leave the city remains Sydney: in the twelve months to March 2024, 67 percent of all regional moves came from this city.

However, this figure is still below the 89 percent of previous years.

The other major city with a particularly high rate of departure is Melbourne: 30 percent of all regional departures are recorded here, compared to 51 percent in the previous year.

At a press conference on Friday, Paul Fowler, CBA’s acting general manager for the regions and agribusiness, said this disproved a common stereotype about the type of people who favour regional parts of the country.

“By far the strongest group of people taking this step are millennials,” he said.

“So the stereotype that some of the people moving to the regions are early retirees or retirees looking for retirement savings is absolutely false.”

Mr Fowler said young Australians were moving with the prospect of contributing to the regional labour market and probably also because they were planning to start a family.

He said the fact that millennials are driving this change highlights specific needs in these regions that cannot be ignored, particularly in terms of the type of housing that needs to be provided to accommodate this growing population.

“But physical and social infrastructure requirements must also be met to ensure that we invest in our cities and communities and that we have regional economies that can absorb this population growth.”

Where is everyone going?

The Sunshine Coast is the most popular place for Australians to move and has maintained its top position for six consecutive quarters.

It accounts for 16 percent of all net internal migration flows, with three quarters of this coming from the capital cities.

The Gold Coast is the second most popular location with a share of 9.1 percent; in the previous quarter it was 8.1 percent.

This is where Sydney residents would be most likely to move; Wollongong was the second most popular choice, followed by Newcastle.

While people may be drawn to more northern areas such as the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, regional New South Wales has also grown in popularity, with the areas now accounting for 39 per cent of regional net inflows, up from 23 per cent in the 12 months to March 2023.

For those leaving Melbourne, the Greater Geelong area was the most popular destination, followed by the Gold Coast and then Ballarat.

The Gold Coast was also the first choice for those leaving Brisbane, followed by the popular Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba.

In Perth, people preferred to move further afield: Busselton was the most popular location to move to, followed by Karratha and the Gold Coast in third place.

For those looking to leave Adelaide, Alexandrina was the most popular destination in the region, followed by the Gold Coast and Barossa in South Australia.

In Hobart, school leavers most frequently travelled to the Gold Coast, followed by Greater Geelong and Launceston.

As in Hobart, new arrivals in Darwin tended to move further afield, with the Gold Coast again taking the top spot, followed by Cairns and Katherine.

“Really tough city to live in”

Llani Belle is one of many young Australians who recently left Sydney and moved to the Gold Coast after living in the port city for four years.

Speaking to news.com.au earlier this year, the 28-year-old said one of the main reasons she decided to move was the worsening rental crisis and rising cost of living, which she described as “just so ridiculous”.

Llani sells real estate courses and although she still travels to the city often for work, she finds commuting more beneficial than continuing to live there.

She said that shortly after moving to Sydney, it became clear that she could not afford the lifestyle she wanted to lead in the long term.

The young worker described it as a city that you “pay to live” in, rather than going there to get ahead in life.

“In Sydney, I never thought I would ever make it forward, no matter how much money I had, because everything was so expensive and prices kept rising,” she said.

“There are other places in Australia that are so big and so beautiful that you can have similar experiences without spending so much money.”

Over the last year and a half, she began to really feel the rising cost of living.

“It’s a really tough city to live in,” she said.

“I think when I started working from home, I thought to myself, ‘What am I still doing here if I don’t have to be physically here all the time?'”

So she packed her things and moved to the Gold Coast, where she now lives in an apartment that she says would cost three times as much in a comparable Sydney suburb.

Liz Ritchie, CEO of the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), said the new movement data showed that people were “voting with their feet” and making a very conscious choice to live in rural Australia.

“While the pandemic has accelerated this movement, the regional lifestyle remains highly desirable for thousands of people, particularly those from urban areas,” Ms Ritchie said.

“This population movement can no longer be viewed as a bizarre consequence of the lockdown years. A social change is underway.

“This ongoing trend is tangible evidence of the importance of investing in and supporting regions to ensure communities have the services, skills and infrastructure they need to support their growing populations.”

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