Saturday 13 July 2013

Australia : Brain drain hits reverse

Australia at risk of squandering expat expertise as brain drain hits reverse

An analysis of the number of Australians heading overseas to live and work has revealed that our brain drain has gone into reverse gear.
Figures from the Bureau of Statistics reveal that record numbers of Australian expats are heading home after spending more than a year abroad.
February and March broke new records for monthly arrivals outside of the busy Christmas period.
However, some say the returning expats are economic refugees of a kind, fleeing the impact of the global financial crisis on overseas economies.
There is also concern that Australia is ill-equipped to capitalise on the flood of new skills and expertise they are bringing home with them.
One such Australian, Nancy Panter, is out of work and looking for a job after returning home from an overseas adventure.
Ms Panter was formerly Visa's director of global brand and marketing public relations.
"I think expats have a lot to contribute back to Australia and it's not just expats who are coming home, but it's expats who are overseas at the moment," she said.
"There are a lot of very innovative, smart, talented Australians who are living and working overseas, some are returning home [and] some continue to stay overseas [and return] home on occasion.
"There's a tremendous amount of knowledge that can help the Australian community and Australian businesses.
"The challenge really is how do we capture that, how do we find a way to tap into that knowledge base." Another former expat, Robyn Fawcett, says she is used to keeping her career on the move.
Ms Fawcett, who works for independent record label Shock, says it took her years to catch up after returning from overseas five years ago.
"When I came back I had all this amazing knowledge that my Australian colleagues just didn't really comprehend," she said.
"And it really took another big international music business to really understand what that actually meant and how that could be relevant to their business and how that could drive them forward." Expat expertise remains untapped Ten years ago a Senate inquiry concluded that expats were an under-utilised resource.
The inquiry recommended a series of measures to encourage the most mobile sector of the nation's workforce, but it seems little has changed.
Pamela Young, who advises Australian businesses on strategic change, interviewed current and former expats for a book that explores corporate Australia's lack of diversity.
She says business is squandering the skills and expertise of those who have worked overseas.
"The person trying to come back into the market finds that there is a barrier to getting back in because they don't have local current expertise, which is what the hiring manager was looking for," she said.
"The people that I interviewed who had recently returned - and some of them had returned some time ago - the situation does not seem to have changed in that decade [since the inquiry].
"They're still finding that there is a much higher regard for having local expertise and local networks, so if you come back and you don't have the networks, you don't get the job." Ms Young says that a lot of returning expats have to take "lesser jobs for lesser money" and prove themselves all over again.
She says not taking advantage of expat expertise has a "massive economic cost".
"We're not tapping into global knowledge that they have, the networks that they have," she said.
Mr Young also says there are psychological and social impacts of returning expats not being able to find work.
"It does impact you psychologically for a period of time because you start to wonder, 'Is it you?'.
"There is sort of a force field around what some people I've interviewed have called parochialism, and they feel that they have to break that barrier down.
"And in the meantime, because they have to take a lesser job with lesser pay, that affects their morale and they have to put a couple of years back into climbing back up the ladder again.
"So there's an economic cost and a social cost." The Bureau of Statistics figures also show that fewer people are leaving Australia to find work overseas.
"Its absolutely true," Ms Fawcett said.
"I mean, a lot of my younger mid-20s friends are just not going to London.
It's not the pilgrimage that it was even five to eight years ago when I went."

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