Fly-in fly-out is a method of employing people in remote areas by flying them temporarily to the work site instead of relocating employees and their families permanently. It is often abbreviated to FIFO when referring to employment status. This is common in large mining regions in Australia.
Similar to the fly-in fly-out roster is the DIDO roster, drive-in drive-out, which has essentially the same benefits and negatives.
Rather than relocating employees and their families to a town near the work site, the employees are flown to the work site where they work for a number of days and are then flown back to their hometowns for a number of days of rest.
Fly-in fly-out is very commonly used in the mining industry, as mines are often in areas far from towns. Employers prefer it when the cost of establishing permanent communities (of sufficient quality to attract families to live locally) will exceed the cost of airfares and temporary housing on the work site. Generally, such sites use portable buildings since there is no long-term commitment to that location (e.g. the mine will close once the minerals have been extracted).
Usually a fly-in fly-out job involves working a long shift (e.g. 12 hours each day) for a number of continuous days with all days off spent at home rather than at the work site. As the employee's work days are almost entirely taken up by working, sleeping and eating, there is little need for any recreation facilities at the work site. However, companies are increasingly offering facilities such as pools, tennis courts and gyms as a way of attracting and retaining skilled staff. Employees like such arrangements since their families are often reluctant to relocate to small towns in remote areas where there might be limited opportunities for spouses' employment, limited educational choices for children, and poor recreational facilities.
The impact of absent FIFO parents (primarily fathers) on their children and schooling has yet to be the subject of a major study, but it is likely that the separation anxiety experienced by the children of FIFO workers is similar to that of military families before, during and after deployment. Research published in Australia in 2014 suggests that children of fly-in fly-out parents suffer emotionally from the parent's absence, more frequently become the targets of schoolyard bullying, and may evince additional bad behaviour. However, such children often receive greater incentive to succeed academically, and some such children appreciate the extended time at home available for FIFO parents.
A federal inquiry into fly-in fly-out and drive-in drive-out in Australia in 2012 found that it can lead to an increase in substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections, and mental illness in workers on a FIFO roster, especially in Western Australia, where the number of people on such a roster is in excess of 50,000.
Mining companies like Fortescue Metals Group estimate that it would cost the company an additional $100,000 per person per year to employ them in residential positions rather than as FIFO workers. In Port Hedland alone the company could save $33 million a year if it was to convert its 330-strong work force from residential to FIFO, the company estimates. The much higher cost of employing residential workers is caused by high real estate prices, slow release of land for residential development and high cost of living subsidies and forces mining companies to rely on FIFO rather than residential workers. Such a strategy has been employed in some mining towns that once had a considerable size. For example, Wiluna in Western Australia had a population of 9,000 in 1938, but now has a population of 300, with almost all employees of the local mines on fly-in fly-out rosters.
Mining companies such as Rio Tinto have said that it is also the government's responsibility to deal with the side effects of fly-in fly-out, including housing shortages and the need to develop further infrastructure in the mining regions such as hospitals and schools to fulfil demand, as the Government highly benefits from increased tax and royalties income through the mining boom. Rio Tinto paid $5 billion in corporate tax and in excess of $2 billion in state royalties in 2011.
- Rio Tinto flies former Gunns workers to its Pilbara mine sites International Business Times, published: 17 March 2011, accessed: 21 August 2012
- Fly-in fly-out Rio Tinto website, accessed: 21 August 2012
- Rio warns against fly-in, fly-out fiddling The Australian, published: 15 June 2012, accessed: 21 August 2012
- 7.30 Report - 17 October 2005: Industry supports fly in, fly out operations
- Fly-in fly-out family study highlights domestic stress » ABC Goldfields WA
- Storey, Keith (July 2001). "Fly-in/Fly-out and Fly-over: Mining and regional development in Western Australia". Australian Geographer 32 (2): 133–148. doi:10.1080/00049180120066616.
- Meredith, V., Rush, P., & Robinson, E. (2014). "Fly-in fly-out workforce practices in Australia: The effects on children and family relationships". CFCA Paper No.19. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
- STIs spreading, doctors forced out: AMA warning to FIFO inquiry watoday.com.au published: 17 April 2012, accessed: 21 August 2012
- Fly-in fly-out saves millions, Fortescue tells inquiry The Sydney Morning Herald, published: 18 April 2012, accessed: 21 August 2012
- Garrick Moore: Mining Towns of Western Australia, page: 93, accessed: 10 January 2010
- Garrick Moore: Mining Towns of Western Australia ISBN 1-875449-34-5, published: 1996