Why you don’t want to be a returnee or a foreigner in this jittery job market

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Foreign nationals and returnee Australians aren’t facing the easiest of employment markets as firms fall out of love with expensive talent, according to delegates at the recent eFinancialCareers roundtable in Sydney.

Because (in the words of one attendee) “there are very big cost issues in the current climate” overseas job seekers must be the exception to the recruitment rule and must also possess exceptional skills.

“The local talent pool is strong now. There are plenty of people who are out of work here and it’s less of a headache recruiting them compared with sponsoring foreign candidates, especially if it’s an urgent hire,” said one of the roundtable panellists, all 25 of whom asked not to be named in this report.

The roundtable agreed that employers will not be financial compensating staff on 457 Visas, if proposed legal changes mean they are no longer entitled to receive the Living Away from Home Allowance (LAFHA) from July this year. The demand for talent is not robust enough to justify the expense of increasing base salaries in response to a removal of LAFHA. And as a general trend, if expats are employed at all, they typically receive local packages.

However, one delegate issued a warning which may become more relevant when hiring levels pick up again. “We had one recent example of a US candidate turning down a job offer because she thought Sydney was more expensive than New York. You can’t just rely on the lifestyle and the sunshine in Australia any more.”

Returnees in ruin

Returnee Australians face similar problems to their foreign counterparts as they enter a job market which can at best be described as cautious. Representatives from four firms at the roundtable summed up their plight:

• “The amount of Australians coming back from overseas without jobs already lined up has gone up dramatically in recent months.”

• “There are enough good quality candidates already in the market, so why would you want to hire returnees, unless they have special skills or are high performers?”

• “Returnees are more demanding to deal with in terms of their expectations than those who are already here; and there’s some great talent already here.”

• “In theory we’re open to returnees, but they don’t get any extra benefits.”

Domestic dilemmas

In contrast to the slump in moves from overseas, many firms, especially the domestic banks, are encouraging and financially supporting internal relocation within Australia as they try to meet the demands of clients across the country.

“But moving in Australia is nearly always difficult and we do need to compensate employees, like by providing rental assistance,” said one delegate. Another attendee agreed, adding that in Perth her firm is finding it hard to attract financial planners because rivals are paying more.

You can read our first blog about the Sydney roundtable by clicking here.

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