Australia Struggles to Find a Place for Returning Expat Workers

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Australia Struggles to Find a Place for Returning Expat Workers

According to a recent report compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian expats are heading home in record numbers, while fewer people are leaving Australia to seek work overseas.

A large proportion of the repatriates are returning home due to economic concerns and employment issues in their host nations, but if they were hoping for a rosier situation Down Under they may be disappointed.

There are growing concerns that Australia simply isn’t taking advantage of the range of new skills and contacts these Australian expats are bringing home with them.

As one ex-expat notes: ‘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. 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.’

Similarly, former expat Robyn Fawcett said of her experiences: ‘When I came back I had all this amazing knowledge that my Australian colleagues just didn’t really comprehend. 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.’

Ms Fawcett expressed frustration over the fact that instead of being able to utilise her skills and experience straight away, it in fact took her several years to ‘catch up’ when she returned home.

In a new book examining Australia’s lack of corporate diversity Pamela Young stresses the way in which skills and talents acquired on foreign soils are so often squandered.

In reference to her project, which involved interviewing a number of expats and repats, Ms Young asserted: ‘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 [...] The people that I interviewed who had recently returned – and some of them had returned some time ago – [are] 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. [...] We’re not tapping the global knowledge that they have, the networks that they have [...] It does impact you psychologically for a period of time [...] There is a sort of 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 up the ladder again. So there’s an economic cost and a social cost.’

Are you a former Australian expat? If so please get in touch on Facebook and Twitter and let us know how you found returning to the Australian job market after your time away.

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