In my last post, I reflected that there are four characteristics of rural regions that make them particularly vulnerable to economic shocks. While every rural region is different – arguably, unique – they also share some common characteristics. Naming these up, noticing the patterns, can help us to understand the dynamics of rural economies.
Rural regions and their economies, with few exceptions, all share these four characteristics:
- Deep dependence on natural environments;
- Structural positioning at the tail of global value chains;
- Small population base, with services and markets thin on the ground; and
- Distance from the centres of economic and political decision making.
There is nothing inherently negative in any of these characteristics, yet they explain all of the key “problems” faced by rural economies.
- Deep dependence on natural environments means that our rural industries are vulnerable to drought, bushfires, floods, storms, disease, climate change, weather variations, environmental degradation….
- Structural positioning at the tail of global value chains means that rural primary producers are price takers; they capture only a small amount of the value they generate, so price drops can quickly render businesses unviable….
- A small population base, with services and markets thin on the ground means that there are often not enough people to keep services running and create the skills and markets to enable new industries to emerge…. and,
- Distance from the centres of economic and political decision making means that rural communities have, and have historically had, little influence over the decisions that affect them, even when they have good ideas for solutions.
These four characteristics can be used to explain common problems faced by rural economies. Seen from a different angle, they can become the starting-point for new ideas to inspire rural futures.
Each of these characteristics can be “flipped” to become strengths and sources of advantage for rural economies. In the next few posts, we’ll “flip” these problem narratives, one at a time, to discover some solutions.