I’m a resume writer with a background in organisational systems (weird, I know). This story of mine was published in InDaily. About half of my clients are under 30 years of age and many are heading interstate to look for work. I thought that was worth writing about.
From 1976 to 2014 around 18-30,000 South Australians left the state each year. Many were professional couples in their 20s and 30s and university graduates.
It’s a rite of passage to leave home in search of new challenges, or to escape unemployment. But how has this ongoing exodus of young people effected the state’s artistic and political culture? What happens to innovation and organisational capability?
Expatriates are partly to blame for some of Adelaide’s economic misfortunes. Through no fault of their own, they took with them 40 years of earning and spending power. Billions of dollars left the state by train, plane and automobile.
South Australia could have tolerated the flight of human capital for three or four years but not 40. It has fundamentally changed the socio-economic make-up of the state.
From 1976-1996, the bulk of people who replaced the expatriates were unskilled or semi-skilled migrants. While the urban Vietnamese who fled the communists were a boon to the economy, in general terms, migrants didn’t have the capacity to generate capital – at least not for some years. The last 15-20 years has seen a rise in skilled migrants. Many stayed in SA although over the last few years more have moved interstate.
This is a destiny issue for the state. Back in 2000 the University of Adelaide’s Bringing Them Back Home report summed up the dilemma. “The proportion of persons with degree and diploma qualifications in the migration stream leaving South Australia is considerably higher than the proportions in the South Australian population. In terms of migrant income, more persons with relatively high income leave the State than arrive.”
Fifteen years later, nothing has changed. Youth flight and the ageing of the population has become a self-fulfilling downward spiral. As the local economy contracts, more young people leave and take with them solutions to counter the spiral.