29 September 2008

More Aussie, Kiwi expats returning home for better work prospects in financial industry

An increasing number of young Australians and New Zealanders working in the finance industry are returning home from London and New York, reports the Sydney Morning Herald, to take advantage of the better employment prospects and economic stability.

A finance recruitment company, Michael Page, told reporters there has been a 27 per cent increase in the number of Australians and New Zealanders living in London looking for financial jobs at home compared with the same month last year.  The number of Australians and New Zealanders living in America and looking for work at home also increased threefold over the same period. 

A company spokesperson said expats are escaping the worsening financial market conditions in Britain and America to enjoy the stability and performance of their homeland economies. 

"It is getting very competitive for jobs in the London and New York markets so people are looking to areas where the economy is performing better," the spokesperson said.  "We've seen huge interest in centres like Hong Kong and Singapore, and of course for Australians working overseas there's been a huge interest in jobs back home."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures showing last year Australia’s population grew at its fastest rate since 1988.  Of this population increase, 56 per cent is accounted for by immigrants.  10 per cent of these immigrants, or around 31,000 people per year, are Australians returning home from the UK.

An analysis from the Economic Research Institute claims the increased cost of living in the UK is driving migrants back to their homelands.  The analysis shows the cost of living for a middle-class family of three in London has risen by over £2000 in the past four months to £38,880 per year.  This is compared with £32,706 per year in Sydney.  The price of staple food has risen by 60 per cent in the UK and petrol prices by 22 per cent.  The Australian dollar also hit an 11-year high against the pound this year, meaning the money earned in the UK is no longer carrying the same weight for Australian migrants.

Jason Cartwright, Director of Link Recruitment, says the growth in numbers of “boomerang migrants” may impact the London economy more than anticipated now Australians make up a large sector of the City’s financial services.  “In the UK’s financial services sector, hiring freezes are increasingly common – but opportunities are abound in the Australian market.  There is also belief that Australia is a safer bet while the credit crunch runs its course,” he told the newspaper.

A number of banking giants, including Merrill Lynch, and accounting firms KPMG and Ernst & Young, have ordered freezes on recruitment in response to plummeting levels of business confidence. In April, a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers found a quarter of financial services companies in Britain have already cut jobs this year and 33 per cent expect more redundancies by Christmas.

Most Australians and New Zealanders living and working in the UK applied for UK visas under the old immigration system.  This year, the UK immigration system is undergoing its biggest shake-up for 40 years, and major reforms are taking effect over the next few months.  The Government is following in the footsteps of the successful Australian visa programme, which assesses visa applicants on a points-based system (PBS).  Applicants for UK skilled migration can earn points for their skills, ability to support themselves and their dependants, qualifications, earnings, and English skills.  These points are then calculated to see if the applicant is regarded as a highly skilled worker. 

The new system will have several tiers; Tier 1 (General Skilled Migration) is the first tier to be introduced to the new UK immigration process.  Tier 1 allows only those migrants to work in Britain that are absolutely necessary, including highly skilled migrants, investors, and business owners.  Tier 1 builds on the successful Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).  Further tiers will be introduced over the next year.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people apply for an Australia visa.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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