A Shifting Tide
This seems to be more than just a blip, with New Zealand experiencing a monthly net increase in Australian migrants every month since April. Australia is simply no longer the land of milk and honey it once was. A drop off in previously booming industries and persisting legislative issues for New Zealanders in Australia make the idea of moving over to "the Lucky Country” a far less appetising proposition than a number of years ago.
The mining, oil and gas sectors have experienced a substantial slow-down recently. The mining industry in particular, formerly one of the Australian economy’s big trump cards, is suffering from what Gareth Aird, Senior Economist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, has called "the hangover from a once in a century mining boom.” This downturn is causing many Australians to investigate their opportunities in New Zealand, and many Australian-based New Zealanders to return home.
Working as a recruiter in the Engineering industry I’ve seen this first hand, having personally helped over ten Australians secure contract roles over the past eighteen months – and that’s just in the mechanical and electrical engineering sectors.
Most of these have been experienced heads looking for work, but some have also been graduates looking for experience that can’t catch a break in Australia. Though the statistics are only just beginning to show this shift, Australian candidates have been telling us that they have been struggling for the past eighteen months to two years, and that there seems to be no end in sight.
Crossing the Ditch
Interestingly, a significant number of experienced Australians are choosing to come over on an almost fly-in/fly-out, project basis. Though we aren’t seeing formal fly-in/fly-out arrangements, we’re seeing candidates commit to multiple two to three month term contracts with a short break in-between terms, and some who fly home of their own accord many weekends.
This kind of work allows for a lot of flexibility, and also allows Australian migrant workers to test the waters in New Zealand ahead of a possible permanent move, something that is becoming more and more common as shown by the statistics.
Of course, a number of these migrants are returning New Zealanders, many of whom will have left for Australia when the market was booming, and are now having to adjust their expectations after working in sectors like mining on significantly above average rates. With these jobs fading away and the Australian cost of living remaining high, returning home to the comfort of family and a lower cost of living, despite a pay cut, starts to look like a good option.
More importantly however, this migration from Australia is also bringing in many skilled and experienced people to work in industries that New Zealand is skill-short in, like engineering, FMCG and manufacturing.
We predict that this trend will continue for another couple of years - or at least until the mining industry finds a solution to its current problems. However, this ongoing Trans-Tasman movement won’t solve New Zealand’s long-term skills shortage list. The Australian work environment and lifestyle is just too similar to New Zealand’s to hold long-term appeal.
Though New Zealand will continue to have a strong influx of migrants long-term, we expect this to come mostly from countries such as the United Kingdom, South Africa, China and India, as they have more intrinsic, lifestyle-motivated reasons for re-locating. However, Australian candidates in these skill-short fields are perfect for supplementing New Zealand’s in-need industries on a fixed-term, non-permanent basis.
For employers, this provides a great opportunity, and a great resource to capitalise on whilst this movement is taking place. With a proven trend of migration from Australia to New Zealand, Australian candidates are now a stronger option than they were previously. If, as an employer, you’re open to hiring on contract or project basis, then Australia is a great pool of talent to tap into.
For candidates, New Zealand provides a chance for a fresh start of sorts in a vibrant, young country. The market is buoyant and growing, and there are exciting opportunities available for people with the necessary skills. In addition, it’s very easy for Australians to come to New Zealand and work. Though New Zealand citizenship is required to live and work in Australia, Australians only need permanent residency to do the same in New Zealand, making it very easy for a wide range of people to start working immediately.
In summary, the New Zealand jobs market is benefiting from the recent downturn in Australia, but not necessarily in the ways we would expect. Movement is happening at a greater level than ever before, and the Australian talent pool contains a lot of untapped potential for employers to consider when filling hard-to-fill roles. For candidates, New Zealand is starting to become Australia’s Australia, with the country’s growth opening up contract opportunities for people at various levels of experience, often on a very flexible basis.
If you fall into either of those categories, get in touch with us here at OCG, and we’ll see what we can do to help.