Why childcare availability could impact FIFO rates
REDUCING the amount of FIFO to a region could be achieved by simply building more childcare centres in local communities, PHD student Christopher Nicholas believes.
During a study, published in January in the Journal of Rural Studies, James Cook University's Mr Nicholas and co-author Riccardo Welters found that one of the best ways to reduce FIFO to regional communities was simply by "making them nicer places to live”.
The conclusion came after the pair sought to find out the factors influencing FIFO to a region.
As many would have predicted, they discovered that the composition and size of the workforce available at neighbouring towns had no bearing on whether or not FIFO was utilised.
Mr Nicholas explained there was an insignificant relationship between FIFO rates and availability of locals for work, regardless of whether or not the region could provide enough workers for the project or not.
But he was more surprised by the fact that housing affordability and living costs also had no impact over the rates of long-distant commuters to a region, whether that be through FIFO, DIDO or BIBO.
He said generally most FIFO workers could afford to live in regional communities, no matter these costs, but they either didn't want to or their employer would not allow it.
In some cases higher house prices were even found to reduce the uptake of FIFO.
In order to motivate more of the workers who could choose where they lived to move to regional areas, rather than commute, these regions had to be made more attractive to live.
The availability of schools and childcare was found to hold a lot of influence.
Other key features included health services, green spaces and teacher to student ratios.
"It all comes back to the idea of making a community a nicer place to live. The big things that we found were just having a school, having childcare, that's a big one. Just having a place to put your kid so parents can work,” Mr Nicholas said.
"It would allow children to actually live in the area and mothers to live there.”
Another element of the research Mr Nicholas said surprised him was only 37% of the country's long distance commuters- based on Census data between 2006-2011- were found to work in the mining industry.
While Mr Nicholas conceded the 16% who worked in construction could also work on mine sites, it still left 53% of FIFO's working in other industries, including real estate, retail and health care.
"That was a very interesting find for us. Because whenever you talk to people whenever you use the word 'FIFO' everyone says 'mining'. Always 'mining',” Mr Nicholas said.
"Mining is the dominant user of FIFO but it is not the majority. The majority is everyone else.”
Mr Nicholas is now working on the second part of his PhD, which will look into how building up social capital can reduce the impacts of FIFO on communities.
"We're seeing if some of these community and personal connections are able to offset some of the FIFO impacts. (And) is there a way a community can cope with the impacts (of FIFO)?” he said.
He's hoping this second paper will be published in the next few months.
To view the current paper see: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0743016716306271
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