Regional areas dealing with aging population issues

AN overwhelming majority of Australia's regional areas are dealing with the economic and welfare challenges posed by having an aging population.

A report to be released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics next week will show 44 of the nation's 55 Regional Development Australia committees identify as having aging populations.

RDA is a network of committees across the nation made up of local leaders who work with all levels of government, business and community groups to support the development of their regions.

The ABS research will summarise the key issues identified by the various committees in their 2010 and 2011 regional plans, which are used to identify a region's strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

Regions with aging populations face increased demand for aged care services, health care, smaller housing types, transport and community infrastructure, as well as shrinking labour forces, the ABS research found.

Conversely, 37 of the 55 regions indicated retaining people aged 15-30 was an issue.

Young people are leaving regional areas because of a lack of recreational facilities and to pursue education and employment opportunities, the research found.

Current or predicted rapid population growth was the most commonly raised population issue, reported by 45 of the regions.

Forty-one of the committees raised concerns about the strain rapidly increasing populations would place on infrastructure and service provision.

Concerns were also expressed by 13 committees about uneven distribution of population growth, both geographically and seasonally.

"Some committees reported that expected growth in regional centres coupled with decline in smaller communities would lead to a withdrawal of services and further disadvantage in those small towns," a sample of the ABS report reads.

"Some committees also reported that seasonal variations in population, mainly due to fly-in, fly-out workers and a high number of tourists in summer, put further pressure on local facilities and services."

Nineteen of the RDA committees raised the issue of population decline and sustainability in rural or remote areas.

"These committees reported that better strategies were needed to attract and retain residents to prevent the withdrawal of services and to ensure that these areas remained viable and economically productive," the sample reports reads.

The research paper, to be released on Tuesday, will also deal with the economic, environmental, social, infrastructure and data issues confronting regional areas.

Topics:  aging australian bureau of statistics population regional areas

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