Case Studies & Evidence

When making policy changes, evidence matters.  No matter how positive the aims of any suggestion are, the big question is: how do we know that a policy will work?

Good policies are founded in logic, and reasoning, but the best and most effective policies are backed by evidence.    For our three key policy suggestions, they have been backed by trials, and hard data, and proven to be effective.  In Australia, the concept of settling refugees in areas with labour shortages has been tried in multiple towns across NSW and Victoria, including Nhill, Yass, Armidale, Tamworth and more.  And these policy experiments have been rigorouslyl studied by independent bodies to assess their economic and social impact – and each trial has led to consistent, and astounding results.

This post is going to run through the results of just one of those trials; run by Deloitte Access Economics, examining the effects of one hundred and sixty refugees from Myanmar being settled in Nhill, a dying town in regional Victoria.  The full report is linked above, but this page will give you a short run down of the key results.

Initial Town Conditions

Nhill is a small town in regional victoria, with a population of just over two-thousand.  Like many regional towns, the town is also reasonably communal, with most community members knowing each other, and with clear community leadership.  The town had a declining population, combined with very low unemployment rates.  As a result of this, there were businesses in the area (primarily in food production) which were unable to expand and grow because they could not find new employees to hire.  There was need for labour in particular to support the expansion of a few large commercial businesses.  Before settlement, businesses were unable to expand sufficiently.

These characteristics of declining population, and very low unemployment made Nhill the perfect candidate town for this program.   In this experiment, 160 refugees, originally from Myanmar, were resettled in Nhill.

Economic Impacts

In the two years since the settlement, Deloitte’s modelling found the following immediate impacts.

  • 70.5 Full Time Equivalent positions have ben added to the regions economy
  • An estimated increase in town GDP of $41.5 million due to the increased labour supply

The Karen resettlement also had flow on impacts to other local businesses

  • A number of businesses capitalised on the addition labour supply that the Karen created.  More employed citizens in the community means more money flowing into all businesses in that community, covering a range of sectors including hospitality, horticulture, construction, education, health and aged care.  Each new person needs food, car repairs, house rennovations, education for their children, and more.
  • 30% of the workers spent up to 50% of their wages locally, and over 40% report their spending between 50-90% of their wages in the local economy, meaning increased spending in the community, and increased business turnover for local businesses.
  • Halfway motors (a Nhill based business) has seen noticeable increase in business.  Most single adults own a car, and the majority in Nhill are second hand.  The settlement has led to tens of new cars o the community, all needing spending on fuel and maintenance.
  • The local supermarket has seen increases in spending at $5000 a week, and is working with the community to expand their range of stock.

We saw a massive increase in our activities. We took on ten casuals, four of them Karen, and we plan to put some on as permanents – it’s a win-win situation which provided potential to assist the Karen to settle in Australia while helping our business grow.

– John Millington, Business Owner in Nhill

Social Impacts

  • It was found that settlement assisted in redressing population decline for the township.  The town’s average age of the Nhill workforce has also lowered, which is a positive indicator of longterm economic performance.  
  • Increased population attracted increased government funding to the town, including for schooling budgets, which has runon effects to employment.   Each new student attracts per capita use funding, as well as additional funding to account for ESL students.  The school currently receives an extra $21,000 per annum for these purposes.
  • Led to an increase in volunteer work and engagement by locals, providing considerable benefits to community, and psychological benefits to volunteers.
  • If the new migrants’ children stay in the region when they reach working age this will further enhance the pool of labour available in the regional community, and prevent longterm population decline

Deloitte’s report identifies huge successes, both socially and economically.  And they claim that it creates a “strong case for resettlement in other Australian communities.”  Provided communities are well set up, have support for new families, a host community which is well prepared for new settlers, initial accommodation, and strong community leadership, huge economic opportunities seem likely for towns with similar conditions all across NSW and Victoria.

Have similar trials found simiar results?

Of course, one trial on it’s own is not sufficient data.  It’s possible that the results of individual experiments could be anomalous, or for various reasons may not have been reproduceable in other areas.  However, there have been other trials and studies of this kind, in multiple australian towns, which have exclusively been met with similar results.

And more than in just australia, studies of trials in canada in the 1990s, focusing on boosting the flow of refugees and migrants to areas of labour shortage, have found extremely similar results.  These independent experiments in Australia and Canada all converge on the same conclusion, and this is powerful evidence for the strength of their results.

This strategy of settling refugees in areas of labour shortage is unusually well tested as government policy goes; few government policies are backed by data this rigorous, set across multiple different communities.   The data is in.  We have done the trials, and we know the facts.

Isn’t it time we started doing what works?

If you want to get involved in growing this solution, contact us, or email us at [email protected]