There's no doubt that COVID-19 has had an impact on businesses and individuals across Australia and has caused some of us to change our ways of seeing and doing things.

Even our ways of working are being reassessed, but I don't think it's as drastic as many would believe.

One of these adaptations has been an increase in regional migration from our capital cities to the regions as Australians jump aboard the flexible work bandwagon; scour for cheaper house prices and look to escape the 'cabin fever' that the pandemic's draconian restrictions have inevitably caused. Certainly, this current movement is real but I vehemently disagree with those who think it will endure for the long term.

The ABS has recently reported that regional migration has reached new record highs, in light of current restrictions to international movement. This is to be expected.


As much as regional migration is welcome, it will not ensure, an expert claims. Picture: Supplied
As much as regional migration is welcome, it will not ensure, an expert claims. Picture: Supplied


Yes, there is 'movement at the station' away to the regions from Sydney and Melbourne, in particular, but this move is nothing more than a sugar hit; a knee-jerk reaction to a country that has been starved of essential inbound international migration.

As much as regional migration is a welcome concept, it will not endure.

There is a distinct reason why 70 per cent of Australia's populations are based in six major cities - they are quite simply the best places to live.

From everyday amenities, to restaurants, employment opportunities, the best schools - these are things that make somewhere more liveable, and ultimately, more popular.

If property price was such a deterrent then we would have seen a far bigger shift than the results suggest.

We possess some of the most liveable cities in the world, thanks to Australia's unique natural beauty; good services; pristine harbours; and expansive coastlines - there's no chance that the majority of Aussies would be willing to give any of that up for a bit more space.

There's an argument that the regional migration trend is a positive for the bigger cities to slow population growth. This seems ridiculously hyperbolic. The population density of Sydney and Melbourne are about ¼ or ⅕ of either London or Paris, so not dense at all by worlds standards.

We need our major cities to both continue to grow further in terms of population from an economic perspective. These are the pistons that power the economic engine of the nation - if they stop, the nation stops.


Australian cities will remain king for the foreseeable future.
Australian cities will remain king for the foreseeable future.


Sydney and Melbourne could be closer to 8 or 9 million inhabitants each, in fact if they were, then new economic solutions could become available.

It will be the growth of the two big cities that will give permanency to regional growth and allow the regions to thrive as genuine hubs of business and activity. This could then entice many more people to make that move - I see the value of investing more heavily within these regions, only at that point.

A catalyst for this could be the development of a high-speed train, say between Sydney and Melbourne.

This would allow for the development of at least three regional hubs and attract new populations, booming the regions to a productive million people, which is a great small city, but this requires growth in the big cities first.

Our cities will remain king for the foreseeable future as they continue to offer unparalleled convenience and lifestyle.

Australians living in these cities are the envy of many overseas.

Forced regional migration is something that has failed many times in the past and will fail again in the future post-pandemic.

As nice as it is to see the regional centres benefiting from this temporary influx, I refuse to be swept away by the fake panacea of the current data.

It's not the regions that are the key to the future of Australia's economic success - it's the cities. So let's make them work and celebrate our success with more people in our great metropolitan centres. The sooner we get the borders back open, the better.


Dr Shane Geha, Managing Director at EG Advisory, Adjunct Professor at UNSW

Originally published as Regional migration trend a 'sugar hit'