How to slow FIFO
James Cook University academics have come up with ways to help regional towns and policymakers reduce the use of FIFO workers and encourage employees to live in the town in which they work.
PhD candidate Christopher Nicholas and co-author JCU Associate Professor Riccardo Welters examined the proportion of Fly-in-Fly-out (FIFO) and Drive-in-Drive-out (DIDO) workers across Australian regions, collectively known as Long Distance Commuting (LDC).
It’s estimated between 75,000 and 90,000 people take part in long distance commuting.
“We found that higher house prices didn’t discourage workers from living in a work region,” said Mr Nicholas.
The researchers think the high wages paid by many LDC jobs might mean workers who consider relocating do not see relatively high house prices as a concern.
The researchers said the availability of rental accommodation, quality service provision - measured by the number of students per teacher and the number of people per medical practitioner - encourages workers to move to a region and discourages LDC.
But, the presence of too many other LDC workers was a vicious circle.
“We also confirmed that population churn – a high turnover of the resident population - erodes social capital in regions, which make them less attractive to relocate to and leads to increased LDC,” said Mr Nicholas.
The researchers said it was already well established that LDC workers do not generally spend much of their wages in the host region, giving rise to the ‘hollow economy’ syndrome.
Mr Nicholas said it’s the first study to simultaneously control for time, space and spatial interaction in an attempt to explain the extent of LDC in a region, and it produced some intuitive and counterintuitive findings.
“If government’s goal is to minimise the hollow economy syndrome and convince workers to migrate rather than adopt LDC, we think policymakers’ best course is to instead improve local service provision and/or increase rental accommodation in the host region,” he said.
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