Jobseekers who have left the country to experience work elsewhere in the world are returning but may have to compete with incoming global talent
Untouched by human activity and industry through so much of history — mass Western immigration only started in the early 19th century — New Zealand’s economy and labour market are now impacted by a variety of global mobility factors.
Indeed, says Stephen Dunstan, general manager for settlement, protection and attraction at government agency Immigration New Zealand, the country’s economic future “depends, in part, on our ability to attract and keep skilled migrants”.
While the war for talent is fierce, the country isn’t doing badly as things stand — Dunstan notes one in four New Zealand workers are migrants — although the imminent rebuild following the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch is a renewed challenge.
Kevin Everett, the owner of Auckland-based Building Recruitment, says with 11,000 aftershocks to date, it has been “hard to know when to start” rebuilding. “A lot of people have been brought in too early and they’ve just been sitting around with nothing to do for six, 12 months,” he says.
Not a good situation, especially when Kate Daly, group general manager for HR at constructor Fletcher Building (FB), notes: “As a small country we do lose talent to the global markets. As a recruitment function we are very focused on bringing talent into New Zealand.” But given how emotive a topic immigration is, getting the balance right is important — the feeling on the ground, she senses, is that such importing should occur “only once local labour markets and talent supply is exhausted”.
But viewing overseas workers as a second-best or a backup option won’t wash. For Kelly Quirk, chief executive of Harrier, an Asia-Pacific-based HR, managed services and resourcing consultancy, the key factors for New Zealand’s ebb and flow of talent are pensions — superannuation is obligatory in Australia, not so in New Zealand — and pay. Here too, Australia wins, with trades and mining professionals in Queensland and Western Australia earning two or three times as much as they might East of the Tasman Sea.
This said, money isn’t everything, as Caroline Rafferty, the general manager of TrackMeBack.com, an online service finding jobs back home for expatriate Australians and New Zealanders, explains: “The key driver for candidates returning home is always lifestyle and family, and that doesn’t vary.”
Such lifestyle elements are playing another key role. “In New Zealand it’s the big dream to do your overseas experience,” says Jason Walker, managing director of Hays New Zealand — but with so many, especially young, Antipodeans spending time in the UK and elsewhere overseas, isn’t brain drain a fear?
Apparently not, given Walker’s evaluation that “it’s valued highly that these candidates have more life experience… it means that you’ve got a bit of get up and go”, with agreement from FB’s Daly, who herself spent five years in London, saying that “working internationally can be a career changing experience”, and the fact that the number of New Zealanders entering the UK for employment has dropped by 40% over the last three years.
“As the drivers of the global economy shift towards Asia and the Pacific, New Zealand is well placed to take advantage of its closeness to growing regional markets,” notes immigration manager Dunstan. And with Dunstan pointing out surveys aplenty noting the attractiveness of his country as a destination, New Zealand seems, challenges notwithstanding, well placed to maintain a healthy talent market.
Full skill shortage lists are available on Immigration New Zealand’s website via tinyurl.com/NZskillslist
According to the Global Talent Mobility Survey from Intelligence Group & The Network, the three countries with the most workers interested in moving to New Zealand are the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. UK comes sixth.
NZ Department of Labour estimates unemployment (now 6.8%) will fall below 6% by March 2013 and to 5.4% in 2014. Jobs growth in Auckland region (North Island) will be driven by wholesale & retail trade, logistics and business services; in Canterbury region (South Island, including Christchurch) construction-related activities drive growth.