Rural economic growth is slowing to a halt, and as a result, some people are moving into cities, according to research.
The Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday that the number of people living in cities grew by 3.1 per cent in the 12 months to March, compared with the same period in 2016.
While this was a better result than in the previous 12 months, it is still far below the national average of 7.2 per cent growth.
Rural clusters, which are small areas where population is relatively low, are often thought of as the “golden age” of Australia, with strong economic growth and strong employment opportunities.
But the Bureau of statistics found that the growth rate in urban centres, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, was only 2.5 per cent, which was below the nationally average of 3.4 per cent.
That has led some people to worry about the future of their region, and there have been concerns about the ability of rural areas to develop.
A study in the academic journal Australian Journal of Urban Economics found that there is a “distinct risk that economic recovery from the rural boom will be stunted or stall due to urbanisation”, in particular if rural populations are not able to find enough jobs and housing to support their families.
In Australia, about two-thirds of the population live in urban areas, with many of these areas located in the metropolitan regions of the country.
“As the number and diversity of rural communities in Australia continues to increase, this could have a negative impact on rural economies,” the report said.
According to the Census, about a quarter of Australia’s population live on less than $200 a week.
Some people may be more vulnerable to being pushed out of rural Australia because of a lack of affordable housing options.
For example, in Western Australia, one of the biggest urban centres in Australia, housing prices are already at record levels.
Urban population density is rising rapidly, with people living more than 20 kilometres from the nearest suburb.
One in 10 Australian households currently live in a rural area, and this figure is predicted to reach 1 in 5 by 2031, according the Bureau.
It is also forecast to increase to one in four by 2033.