Study deems Kyabram most economically resilient town

By Jared Prestwidge

KYABRAM has been deemed the most economically resilient regional town in Australia by a study conducted by the University of South Australia, the University of Newcastle, and George Mason University.

In response to the scale and economic impacts of COVID-19, the study was conceived due to the immediate and pressing need for policymakers and agencies to not only understand what kind of support is needed but where that support is needed most.

There is no state, locality or community that will not be affected by the pandemic but because of differences in economic structure, there are some communities that will be more vulnerable.

An Economic Vulnerability Index was chosen as the criteria to determine a town’s vulnerability.

A value of 100 equals the national average score.

A higher EVI score means the community is relatively more economically vulnerable to COVID-19 disruptions, and a score lower than 100 means the community is relatively less vulnerable.

Kyabram, the most resilient, scored a 69.59 on the EVI, while the most vulnerable, Chinchilla in south-west QLD, scored 232.13.

Nearby towns Moama and Echuca were calculated as having a high vulnerability, with scores of 110.32 and 106.32 respectfully, while Bendigo scored 93.65.

The results were built from publicly available data and reflect industries likely to be the first to experience pandemic-related disruption such as hospitality and leisure, transportation, employment services and travel arrangements.

In this initial attempt at producing an EVI, researchers focused on public-facing industries that were either directly affected by travel restrictions, as well as those dominated by temporary or contingent workers.

Oil and gas mining were included because of their sensitivity to travel demand, while retail was not included because the elements of retail spending by those affected by travel restrictions is accounted for in other included industry sectors.

Export-based industries carry relatively higher weights in the researcher’s calculation of the EVI because they bring new money into the local economy, and export industries typically have a larger indirect economic effect on their host economies due to their deeper local supply chains.

Finally, a calculation of the percentage of total local jobs that are part-time was included.

Part-time jobs are more susceptible to market downturns and workers in part-time jobs usually have fewer financial reserves, which means their household spending is more easily disrupted, which then impacts the overall health of the local economy.

The study stated that the researchers are constantly finding anecdotal evidence that suggests the index needs to be adjusted as the list of impacted industries grows beyond the current list.

“Even as we publish this first version of the EVI, we are finding anecdotal evidence that suggests the index needs to be adjusted as the list of impacted industries grows beyond our current list,” it said.

“We expect that EVI 2.0 will need to explicitly account for declining local retail spending, and the spread effects across supply chains as the loss of revenue increases in professional services, non-emergency care personal services, and manufacturing as unsold inventories begin to pile up.”