The limits of telecommuting: Policy challenges of counterurbanisation as a pandemic response


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A prominent aspect of many people's experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a practice known as telecommuting, which typically involves working from home. Telecommuting has been a key response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has translated into an increasingly and explicitly expressed desire to move out of cities and into nonmetropolitan areas where housing is less dense and infection rates are lower. This interest in counterurbanisation is an understandable response to self-isolation. However, many postpandemic telecommuters are likely to be knowledge workers for whom some presence in the office during the working week may be required, and that may limit their counterurban moves to metropolitan hinterlands and regions. Commuter-based population growth in metropolitan-proximate and peri-urban settlements may then lead to urban sprawl-that is, to disconnected and widespread suburbanisation. This article addresses emergent policy challenges for governments as they respond to the growing propensity for nonmetropolitan and particularly peri-urban relocations that appears to be an outcome of the pandemic. Specific attention is paid to the distribution of employment and need to consider the variegated nature of population and demographic trajectories in nonmetropolitan Australia.
cities and regions, counterurbanisation, COVID-19, policy, population, telecommuting
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