Last week the Commonwealth Bank announced another nine (part) closures of branches in regional Tasmania, all bar one in the North of the state.
But it did have an interesting twist which flags the future for work in our regions and is a pattern already established in other countries. That pattern is about a series of factors pulling or maintaining work in regional areas while simultaneously pushing work out of those same regions.
One pull factor is the multiskilling of regional roles to maintain a regional presence where there is insufficient work for any role on its own.
So while the Commonwealth Bank announced a series of reduced opening hours in order to maintain viable jobs they have offered staff other roles for the lost work - mainly in bank-related call centres.
This enables a continued local footprint and employment. While there are many negative impacts from reduced banking hours on local economic activity, from a local income point of view there is no direct loss.
This pull factor is enabled by new technology platforms where workers can undertake multiple roles from home or regional settings, helped along by COVID accelerating new work-from-home incentives and pulling people into regional lifestyles.
In many cases it is the knowledge-intensive businesses (think accountants and lawyers) that are best able to shift to local community and work-from-home models.
Instead of the weekly visit by knowledge businesses to regional towns the incentives are being put in place for workers to live in the regions. Incentives include for example access to microbusiness sites in existing infrastructure (such as council facilities) and role-sharing across businesses and localities.
This happens to some extent now with say, planners working across multiple local government, the new art is to better connect the geography of work with the geography of where people might choose to live - and attract and retain them.
It's about the scale and scope and for many Tasmanian towns a few more knowledge workers (scale) across a few more business areas (scope) could literally add hundreds of thousands of direct dollars into the local economy.
Those trends that are making working from home/regional work more attractive are also pushing other services out of communities because for example a bank can operate from a digital platform anywhere around the world.
Services that were originally solid in communities (think bank/teller/cash) have become liquid (think phone/app/bill-pay).
Many previous place-based solid health services will now be increasingly provided from global telehealth platforms. The globe has become the community. The same forces pulling people back into communities are effectively pushing others out.
These developments mean for example that most workers in the future will need to have transition and adaptation skills to be able to pivot from one job to another, often with different employers.
Educational and training bodies that can get on the front foot and offer these skills will be key to making this all work.
The days of one qualification are almost over; the future is about people looping in and out of skills and learnings throughout life. Teller one day, call centre operator the next. Part local face-to-face work, part online.
Most millennials (aged 24-35 now) have worked more jobs (average six) than many retiring baby boomers have all their lives. Around 47 per cent have changed careers completely and many work more than one job at a time.
From a local perspective it becomes important that all employers can support this, for example by ensuring that leave and other entitlements are as consistent and as transferable as possible.
Those places that can best offer connectivity between multiple employers to attract employees will be winners and those that can't - losers. This is an example of what is called the new economic geography of labour and is now a fundamental driver of liveability.
It's going to be competitive and fast moving and it's happening now.
Many mainland councils and regional areas already have sophisticated websites, social media campaigns and specific 'champions' targeting both population groups and industries, especially those with remote working capacity - for example the GoFarOut.com campaign in central West Queensland.
Many of these places already offer specific incentives such as 'free' microbusiness infrastructure, employer connectivity and COVID-safe restaurant spaces.
While historically most regional movers waited until they had an actual job before they chose where to move, now the potential range of work is sufficient to choose a place.
Globally local governments are stepping into the role of brokering the right push/pull mix - precisely because local government is seen to be the only institution with a deep interest in and knowledge about what drives social and economic sustainability.
The proposed Tasmanian local jobs hubs may have a bigger role on their hands than previously thought.
- Professor David Adams, University of Tasmania