SEIFA tells an interesting story of the North; Townsville Cairns gap closes

Today saw the release of the 2016 Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), last seen in 2011. There are a number of indexes included in the release which tell us about relative socio-economic advantage and/or disadvantage of local areas down to the SA1 area, which are based on the 2016 Census data.

If we consider the data at the Local Government Area (LGA) level the indexes provide us with an insight into how the various Council areas in the North have fared over that 5 year period. We shall consider the Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage (IRSD). The index broadly measures “people’s access to material and social resources, and their ability to participate in society”. A low score generally indicates relatively greater disadvantage while a high score indicates a relative lack of disadvantage. The LGAs are ranked both in Australia and QLD (out of 78 QLD LGAs in 2016).

In 2016 the least disadvantaged LGA was Weipa (score of 1064 and rank of 78) while Cherbourg was the most disadvantaged (score of 404 and rank 1). This is little changed from the 2011 index which had Brisbane as least disadvantaged (score 1057 rank 74…there were only 74 LGAs in 2011) and Weipa in 73rd place. Cherbourg was the most disadvantaged in 2011 also.

In the North, however, we see some quite significant changes which are outlined in the table below.

IRSD 2016 2011
  Score Rank/78 Score Rank/74
Cairns 980 54 975 55
Douglas 981 56  na  na
Cassowary Coast 931 31 926 29
Tablelands 949 37 932 34
Mareeba 936 33  na  na
Townsville 989 60 1002 66

Note that in 2011 both Douglas Shire and Mareeba Shire had yet to de-amalgamate from Cairns and Tablelands Regional Councils.

What we see is that across the Far North there was a general improvement in scores and a maintenance of rankings; allowing for the fact that there are 4 more LGAs than in 2011.

However, the story for Townsville is very different. The IRSD score has fallen sharply over the 5 years from 2011 to 2016 and, as a result, the area has dropped in the rankings quite steeply. Of particular note, given the rivalry between the two cities, will be the fact that the differential between Townsville and Cairns has fallen from 27 points in 2011 to just 9 five years later.

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