Rural and regional women

Rural and regional women have a lower rate of workforce participation compared to rural and regional men (56.5 per cent and 66.8 per cent respectively).


workforce participation rate for rural and regional women compared with all women
Source: ABS, Labour Force, Detailed - Electronic Delivery, Feb 2017, cat. no. 6291.0.55.001, 12 month average of original data, persons aged 15 years and over.

The workforce participation rate for rural and regional women (15+) is 56.5%, compared with all women (15+) at 59.2%, and rural and regional men (15+) at 66.8%.
* Data for rural and regional women is not readily available. Participation rates for people living outside capital cities has been used as a proxy.

One third of Australian women live in rural and regional areas. These women play a crucial role in the growth and future regional economies and communities.

The Government continues to ensure its mainstream employment services feature a range of interventions, activities and complementary programs to help rural and regional job seekers, including women.

The Government is investing in the workforce participation of rural and regional women in a number of ways, as outlined in the recent Regions 2030 report.

The Government will also lead by example in creating jobs in regional communities through its decentralisation policy. Decentralisation will benefit regional women through the creation of local jobs and career paths, increased economic diversification and the stimulation of economic growth.

Where are we?

As set out in the recently released Regions 2030 report, the Government is committed to building strong regional communities that businesses and families have the confidence to invest in. This commitment to invest will benefit rural and regional women in a number of ways.

The Regional Jobs and Investment Packages is a $220 million investment to help diversify regional economies, stimulate economic growth and deliver sustainable employment in ten pilot regions.

The Building Better Regions Fund invests in infrastructure and community development projects in regional and remote Australia. Projects must create jobs, drive economic growth and support strong regional communities.

The 2017-18 Budget provides $272.2 million for a new program investing amount of more than $10 million of federal government funding, in partnership with local and state governments, into major infrastructure projects to help unlock the potential of a region. 

The Government will lead by example in creating jobs in regional communities through its decentralisation policy.

In 2017, women held 37 per cent of the overall percentage of positions on Regional Development Australia (RDA) Committees and the percentage of CEO positions held by women employed with RDA Committees was 45 per cent.

Key Actions 2017-18

  • Continue implementation of the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages.
  • Consider the findings of the Productivity Commission’s study on Transitioning Regional Economies, to be released December 2017. The study will look at the factors that influence a region’s capacity to adapt to changes in circumstances.
  • Continue to implement the recommendations of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper which sets out future approaches for growing farm profitability and boosting agriculture’s contribution to economic growth, trade, innovation and productivity, both on farms and in the wider community.
  • Consider initiatives to advance the interests of Australian women through the Regional Development Australia Committees.
  • Fund the new Launch into Work program, pre-employment projects that provide training, mentoring and work experience to assist job seekers to become work ready. Projects are flexible and will be designed to meet the specific needs of rural and regional women.
  • Provide $24 million for Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships, which will support 1,200 regional and remote students to undertake science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies. The scholarships are for undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational education students and aim to improve access to education opportunities for regional and remote students.
  • Refocus the existing Incubator Support element of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme to provide additional support for regional businesses. The measure will include additional regional incubator facilitators and provide grants to support the establishment of regional business incubators.