Australia has taken its engineers, its builders, its IT professionals and its healthcare workers. Now New Zealand wants them back.
In fact, so severe has the brain drain been in recent years, that the New Zealand government is recruiting Australians to fill job market shortages that, if left unattended, could hold back the country’s growth.
The current administration of John Key expects the economy to generate 50,000 new jobs in the next two years, according to the country’s tertiary education, skills and employment minister Steven Joyce.
“We’ve had a good post-GFC period,” Mr Joyce told BusinessDay on Monday.
“Unemployment is dropping – we’re already at 5.4 per cent and heading down quite significantly.
“Where there are risks in terms of shortages appearing, we’re taking a proactive stance and saying, ‘well, we’ve donated a lot of skilled people to Australia over the years and now we’d like some back’,” he said.
The reconstruction of Christchurch following the devastating 2011 earthquake partly explains a shortage of construction workers, engineers and tradesmen, as does heightened building activity in Auckland.
Government policies aimed at fostering high-tech industries have also opened vacancies for IT professionals, while economic buoyancy more broadly translates to demand for services such as healthcare and hospitality.
To match employers with prospective employees, the Kiwi government is staging its first ever jobs expo in Australia. It opened at the weekend in Perth, and moves to Sydney this weekend, at the Sydney Town Hall, before trundling on to Melbourne and Brisbane early next year.
That schedule is guaranteed to cover most of the almost half a million Kiwis living in Australia, and net quite a few Aussies into the bargain.
Mr Joyce said of the 1600 curious job-seekers at the Perth show, about half were Australians or workers from third countries such as Ireland.
“Many Kiwis and an increasing number of Australians are seeing, in certain professions and skills, a bit of a trans-Tasman labour market – and I think that probably came along with the big energy projects in WA and Queensland,” Mr Joyce said.
“Our view is that that’s a two-way street.”
After decades of talent-sapping seepage, the tide, apparently, is starting to turn.
According to official figures just out, October was the first month since 1993 in which there was net migration into New Zealand. Australians are already doing their bit, with a net 15,000 staying there in the past year, compared with more like 9,000 a few years ago.
In the past, various governments and companies have addressed labour shortfalls In New Zealand with jobs fairs in the United Kingdom.
Mr Joyce said the current government realised they might be overlooking a rich seam right at their doorstep.
“Earlier in the year it was myself who said, ‘hang on, have we ignored the biggest opportunity, which is right across the Tasman in the West Island?’,” he quipped.
For those who fear Sydney, or even Australia, will be left wanting after a sort of reverse talent leak, the Minister offered assurances.
“This won’t de-populate any part of Sydney,” he said.
“But it’s a genuine attempt to get people to consider other options, and we offer a pretty good lifestyle.
“Sydney is a great place, but there are lots of great places in the world – and I think here, down under, we’re blessed with a fair number of them.”
news source & image credits: theage.com.au