Shifting Sands for Kiwi Migrants – is It Really Better in Australia?

November 20, 2014

Danielle Wright looks into employment opportunities awaiting New Zealand workers across the Tasman.

It’s easy to think the grass is greener elsewhere, but moving to Australia involves a fair amount of luck and persistence on the work front with the employment market lagging behind New Zealand’s.

As well as an uncertain economic outlook, there’s the lack of safety nets for Kiwi workers across the Ditch.

While expected to pay Australian tax, New Zealand citizens entering Australia after February 26, 2001, are not entitled to the full range of social security payments including unemployment and sickness benefits and the NZ Embassy in Australia encourages New Zealanders living there to obtain medical insurance before they move. That’s why many Kiwis are now weighing up whether it’s even worth relocating.

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We asked an Australian employment expert and an economist what’s waiting for Kiwis on the other side should they decide to risk the lack of social security and take the punt.

The Australian economy is in transition and moving from the resources sector to the non-resources sector,” advises Jan Lee, Australian Government senior economist. “It’s also moving from resources investment to resources export.

As the mining boom fades, commodity prices [especially iron prices] are falling. This has led to a fall in resources investment. At the same time, past investment in resources has contributed to a rise in resources exports,” explains Lee. “Interest rates are kept at record low levels [2.5% pa] and this is encouraging a growth in non-resources investments, such as construction and housing. This is the economic transition that is taking place and will reflect in the shift in the pattern of employment, with a lag in time.

But, what does that mean for New Zealanders hoping to find work in Australia?

Although the mining industry was a relatively small employer in general terms [large projects, small specialist workforces], the decline in the price of iron ore and coal has seen plants scale down or shut down,” says Steve Shepherd, labour market analyst of recruitment and HR specialist Randstad.

New Zealanders wanting to break into this industry will be competing against the many Australian workers who were employed in the mining business and are now looking for work elsewhere.

The reduction in commodity prices has seen the mining boom of a few years ago dead and buried and this has seen a decline in a number of sectors that support the mining industry, not just the mining industry itself,” explains Shepherd.

Manufacturing has also struggled in Australia and the announcement of some high-profile companies exiting Australia, such as Ford and General Motors, has cast a cloud over the vehicle component manufacturing sector, says Shepherd.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom and the Randstad Employment Mobility Index indicates that job seeker and employer confidence is on the increase.

We are seeing growth in civil and construction professionals demand and trades but this is no different to New Zealand,” says Shepherd.

We are also seeing growth across the finance sector and in IT.

We also expect to see continued growth in personal care roles, particularly across the disability sector as they begin to see the benefits of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, implemented in 2013.

Despite the increase we have seen in the official unemployment rate over the course of 2014, we are seeing constant month-on-month increases in the ANZ and Seek Job Ad Indexes and we are also seeing an increase in jobs in sectors like construction and finance which have typically been early indicators of an improving job market,” says Shepherd, who admits that wage growth in Australia remains flat and is likely to stay that way for the next 12 months or so.

New Zealanders are still perceived well in the Australian job market and Shepherd says there are generally next to no barriers/biases for employment should Kiwi workers apply for Australian-based jobs.

I think culturally we have worked alongside Kiwis for decades and they are a respected element of our workforce.

By Danielle Wright


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