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Declining Youth In-migration in Rural Western Australia: the Role of Perceptions of Rural Employment and Lifestyle Opportunities

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Abstract

Over the last two decades there has been a steady decline in youth migration to Australian rural communities. Generally, inland agricultural communities are the most seriously impacted by this trend. Coupled with high rates of youth out-migration, many rural communities face difficulties in attracting young people to fill skilled job vacancies and apprentice positions. Declining youth in-migration also has social consequences, effectively reducing the capacity of rural communities to replenish their skill base and social networks. This research identifies how urban-based youth perceive rural lifestyles and employment opportunities and how this is linked to their willingness to move to rural areas. The study reveals that young people attach undesirable aesthetic values to the physical environment of inland rural communities and perceive them as socially isolating and as having minimal opportunities for career advancement. However, the perceptions of those who live, or had lived, in rural areas are far more positive than those who have had little experience in rural communities. Accordingly, those who had previously lived in inland regions were far more likely to move to rural areas than those who had limited lived experience of rural communities. Overall, the research found that perceptions of lifestyle and employment opportunities were important influences on young people's willingness to move to rural communities.

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