$30,000 salary boost: The allure of Australia's big job offers

Damien Venuto, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 3 May 2022, 7:04am
Recruiters are looking to pull New Zealand workers to Australia. (Photo / Getty Images)
Recruiters are looking to pull New Zealand workers to Australia. (Photo / Getty Images)

$30,000 salary boost: The allure of Australia's big job offers

Damien Venuto, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 3 May 2022, 7:04am

A New Zealand woman in her 20s was able to lift her salary by around $30,000 after moving to Australia.

NZ Herald property editor Anne Gibson tells the Front Page podcast this is just one of many stories she's been told in recent weeks about.

"Australian companies are offering much higher salaries, some are covering moving expenses, going as far as even moving the cat if you want that," says Gibson.

"They're also offering a better lifestyle and cheaper living, especially when it comes to houses.

"ANZ has forecast 20,000 Kiwis leaving in a year to Australia and other parts of the world. It's very worrying."

Another factor pulling younger people across the ditch is the quality of entertainment on offer.

"I have some friends who have just moved to Queensland. They're younger people and they started to notice that Auckland has really declined in terms of entertainment," says Gibson.

With the impact of Covid and the loss of tourists, the options available in terms of bars, restaurants and live entertainment has been stark over the last two years.

Australia certainly hasn't avoided the impact, but Kiwis going abroad do get to experience everything anew rather than waiting for the industry to recover here.

"Where they are now, they've got the Gold Coast on their doorstep, they've been to the Zoo already, they like the warmer climate and they love having a Costco over there. These are the types of things that make people in their 20s happier.

"It's about things being bigger, better and different. They just love living there right now. It's not something I would consider doing right now, but I can understand people at a different life stage doing that."

Beyond the enhanced entertainment options and the prospect of homeownership, the young couple was also given a big boost in earnings.

"[One of them] is earning about another $30,000," says Gibson.

"In your 20s, that's pretty significant. I mean, that's around half the average salary in New Zealand, so it's a major lure."

The prospect of this big recruitment threat from Australia comes at a time when there is a major skills shortage in the construction industry in New Zealand.

Gibson's reporting has shown that there's a shortage of over 200,000 people across New Zealand's infrastructure sector at the moment.

"I went Waihanga Ara Rua (construction and Infrastructure) Workforce Development Council, and they cited an Infometrics study, which looked at the entire infrastructure sector, including electricity, telecommunications and vertical construction."

These staggering numbers pose a massive challenge because of how integral construction is to the broader economy.

"Construction is the fourth biggest employer in New Zealand, so it's a huge economic driver. With consents sitting at a record 48,000 a year, we've never built this many houses. But it's not just houses. It's also commercial infrastructure, like roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and universities. It's really worrying when you don't have enough people to do all those things."

A knock-on effect of construction delays is that it can also lead to other businesses not being able to grow as quickly as they can. Having to wait extended periods for projects to be completed means that everything just takes a little bit longer to happen.

Gibson adds that the worker shortage also puts added pressure on a workforce that is already vulnerable from a mental health perspective.

"I've spoken to a couple of young guys in their 20s and the pressure on them is immense. They're going in to work over the weekends and often putting in long Saturdays. So much for the 40-hour week.

"They're just being put under a tremendous amount of pressure. That's happening because the firms they work for are also under a lot of pressure to get that work done."

This comes in an industry that has long struggled with the impact of suicide among members of the workforce.

A study conducted between 2007 and 2017 found that 300 construction workers died from suicide, with work-related factors cited as contributing in almost a third of cases.

"There was an outfit started a few years ago called Mates in Construction, which aims to get people to open up and talk. The latest figures from [this organisation] are even worse, which is saying that one person a week dies. This is an utter tragedy.

"The increased stress, the contracts, the tight deadlines, the uncertainty, the weekend work and… remember these places are very dangerous."

The pressure on workers in the construction industry doesn't look likely to alleviate any time soon. Economists have forecast that the unemployment rate will fall to a new record low of around 3 per cent, when labour market data is released later this week.

Add to this the continued allure of Australia and other international destinations and it suggests New Zealand's labour crunch is going anywhere anytime soon.

The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am.