Australia's rural entrepreneurs

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) launched a new report today: Perspectives on Regional Australia: Business Owners in Regions, 2011. Its findings reinforce the importance of the need for strong business base for rural and regional communities. My work in these regions has focused on the creation of local enterprise support agencies and other forms of local economic initiatives. These are designed to support the increasing number of men and women who are generating non-farm incomes.

The report indicates that in 2009-10, there were approximately one in every seven Australians receiving income from running their own unincorporated business. However, in regional Australia, outside of the major urban centres, the proportion of people running their own business was much higher. In some regions, including rural regions in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales, business owners made up over a quarter of income earners.

On average, people tended to earn much less from an unincorporated business than from all sources of income. Census data indicates that less than half of the people who earned income from an unincorporated business did so as their main job. Of the people who ran an unincorporated business as their main job in 2011, approximately two-thirds of them (66%) were male and their median age was 47, about 7 years older than the average worker. Business owners who ran their business as a main job tended to work in construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing (especially business owners outside of the greater capital cities), and professional, scientific and technical services (especially those in the greater capital cities).