National Economics expert Peter Brain said the region was in desperate need of more broad-based jobs, for fear of Wide Bay Burnett's already sky-rocketing unemployment rates soaring even higher.
National Economics expert Peter Brain said the region was in desperate need of more broad-based jobs, for fear of Wide Bay Burnett's already sky-rocketing unemployment rates soaring even higher.

WEALTH, WORK, WAGES: How region stacks up next to Brissie

A MORE diverse industrial base is the answer to Wide Bay Burnett's unemployment concerns, according to a leading authority.

National Economics expert Peter Brain said the region was in desperate need of more broad-based jobs, for fear of Wide Bay Burnett's already sky-rocketing unemployment rates soaring even higher.

The stern warning followed the release of the State of the Regions 2018 report on Monday, which revealed Wide Bay Burnett had clocked the worst unemployment rate in Australia. A situation made more dire by the fact this was far from the first time Wide Bay Burnett has topped the list of worst regions.

While the region's headline unemployment rate (by Australian Bureau of Statistics) is 7.9 per cent, the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research unemployment rate is a shocking 14.9 per cent.

Mr Brain said the stark difference between the two rates was due to how different authorities compiled the data.

"The government gets working age social security recipients off the unemployment roll and puts them on disability pensions and Newstart and whatnot," he said.

"That way, they control the headline unemployment rate and make it look a lot lower.

"Our rate is so much higher because we get all that social security data they take out and put it back in."

Mr Brain told the NewsMail an ageing population was a leading contributor to the region's unemployment.

"The area is ageing rapidly ... Between 2013 and 2018, the population of 55 and over increased by just under 3000, which averages out to 600 a year," he said.

At the same time, Wide Bay Burnett's population of under-55s is falling by about 200 a year, according to the report.

"Those combined are not good for growing employment," Mr Brain said.

As a result of its falling working aged population (18-64), the size of the region's workforce is also decreasing.

"Employment, which is growing by about 1000 a year, is growing faster than the workforce. That means that unemployment will fall, which you can see has happened from 2016 (16.9 per cent) and now (14.9 per cent)," Mr Brain said.

"But it's still very very high ... and it's quite a poor area too. In 2010, the region's disposable income was 44 per cent of the typical household in Sydney. Now it's fallen to 36 per cent.

"It's one of the poorest areas in Australia. It's ranked 66 out of 67 regions in the report."

The region's 2018 disposable income, which includes cash benefits but is after tax and interest, was $10.368 million.

Brisbane city's was almost six times that at $59.885m.

In a similar trend, Wide Bay Burnett's wealth per household of $414,000 was less than half of the metro's $955,000.

"Household wealth has gone from 26.9 per cent of the top rank (Sydney) to only 17 per cent now. And if that continues, you're going to end up at one third, or 30 per cent, even of the top rank," Mr Brain said.

He admitted there was no quick fix to the region's concerning unemployment rate.

"You've got a narrow industrial structure. The industries that create pathways for young people aren't really available here," Mr Brain said.

"Scientific, technical, administrative, transport services and construction industries need to grow in tandem so that there's more opportunities for people to see and have in the future. That'll give them the confidence to embark on a pathway towards a stable employment outcome."



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