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Learning to live with less

By Ross Elliott - posted Friday, 21 August 2020

There have been recent media reports speculating about Victorians (in particular) seeking refuge from Covid impacts in their home state and moving to Queensland. I don’t believe the media reports will reflect significant real numbers for the reason that Queensland’s full-time jobs growth has actually been negative in the last five years and anaemic in the last ten.


It’s important to look at full time jobs because these are the things people need to secure mortgages and to provide family security. Much has been made of the Gig economy, but part time and casual jobs are particularly vulnerable in recessions and especially to downturns in Covid-sensitive industries like hospitality, travel and tourism. Which happen to be synonymous with Queensland.

Would Victorians (for example) logically leave a state that has produced more full-time jobs than any other in the last five years for a state that now has fewer full-time jobs than five years ago? I have heard some in the property industry argue that if you had to be unemployed, where better than in Queensland. Which is true, but is this what we want? Migrants arriving without jobs to go to or limited prospects of getting any in the near term isn’t helpful. This won’t stimulate our economy but will add to the drain on services in costly areas for governments (meaning taxpayers) like health and education. Fewer full time employed taxpayers and a rising population of dependent unemployed is not a recipe for economic growth. Property professionals spouting this line need to take a long, cold shower. All population growth is not alike.

So each of three sources of population growth looks challenged in a post Covid Queensland, for the next few years at least. Less NOM, fewer NIM and less breeding.

Is this such a bad thing though? Provided we continue with infrastructure projects, it could allow the State to begin to close the infrastructure gap which has widened significantly in recent decades. The pressure is everywhere to see – rising congestion, hospital waiting lists, rising school class numbers, and hostility to development generally. If Covid forces a breather on the rapid rates of population growth we’ve been used to, perhaps it will mean we can actually enhance our quality of life and standards of amenity in the process?

It’s also worth keeping in mind that there are many global examples of low growth cities and regions which remain highly attractive and economically prosperous. The surplus of demand by people wanting to live and work there, relative to supply (deliberate limits on housing supply and population caps) invariably makes these very expensive real estate markets, completely unaffordable for many. But from a selfish property market point of view, they are still viable markets for development and redevelopment. Locally, think Noosa. Being horrendously expensive for residential or commercial property hasn’t stopped some of our other property markets before?

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This article was first published in The Pulse.

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About the Author

Ross Elliott is an industry consultant and business advisor, currently working with property economists Macroplan and engineers Calibre, among others.

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