How to get a job in Australia
Diamond Jubilee washed out? US jobs data scary? Ride out the recession Down Under!
Here in The Register's antipodean eyrie, we have good economic news!
Australia skipped the worst of the GFC and avoided a recession. Annual growth remains close to three per cent and unemployment hovers near five per cent.
We gather things aren't so good elsewhere. Brits seem to be grumbling about a double dip recession and predictably poor Diamond Jubilee weather. US readers tell of nasty news on jobs growth and a wobbly economy.
Australia, meanwhile, has different worries, one of which is that w don't have enough clever workers like Reg readers. To lure you here we have a scheme designed to encourage techies to our shores for a few years.
If you come we can promise a good lifestyle, decent weather (which curiously becomes foul whenever UK-based representatives of El Reg come to town), plus a health system that isn't entirely alien to Brits and can look generous to North Americans.
The scheme that can land you here is called a “457 visa” and allows workers with skills in designated fields to work in Australia for up to four years, provided you have a job waiting for you.
Several IT-related jobs are on the official lists  of skills Australia needs. Business Analysts, Systems Analysts, Analyst/Programmers, Developers and Telecoms Engineers are all in short supply. We've also rounded up opinion on hot jobs Australian headhunters are struggling to fill,here .
There are two main ways to get your hands on a 457 visa. One is to find a job in Australia with an employer willing to sponsor you. That's not as hard as it sounds: desperate employers advertise abroad.
A second way is to work with a labour hire company who can get you in on a 457 and put you to work as a contractor of sorts. You get a job with the labour hire company, but you work somewhere else. The labour hire company pays your wages, but your boss is in your workplace.
Don't worry if that sounds dodgy: it's an increasingly common arrangement for independent professionals and contractors in Australia because it sorts out the tax problems that crop up when contractors have a single source of income.
Peter Acheson is CEO of Peoplebank, a labour hire firm permitted bring 457 visa bearers to Australia, and he says the key criteria for gaining the visa is “demonstrable expertise” in your field. Formal qualifications are good, but recent work history is the key requirements.
“You need to have had at least a minimum of two years working in the role,” he says, explaining that workers needn't feel excluded if they toil in fields where vendor certifications are more common than university degrees.
Acheson says 457 visa holders get access to Medicare, Australia's public health scheme, but Peoplebank insists on private health insurance too. Because you'll pay Australian income tax, your kids can go to government schools.
When a labour hire firm brings you in, it is obliged to keep you working for the duration of your visa. That means if your initial placement falls over, it can shop you to another employer or shuttle you among several workplaces. That's not as scary as it sounds: as Peoplebank will be your employer and is obliged to keep you here, so you'll keep working.
It’s also possible to come to Australia without having a job waiting. In most cases, you’ll need to satisfy a points scheme – the more skilled you are and the more your skills are in demand, the more points you’ll get and the more likely you’ll be to secure a visa. Those who intend to settle in order to start a business are also generally welcome. If you are willing to work in remote areas, things get easier
Australia’s Department of Immigration has an online Wizard  to help you understand the many and varied visa options and criteria.
Some downsides to life in Australia
Australia is not, of course, a land of milk and honey.
On the economic front, the nation may not have endured a recession but the economy is not firing on all cylinders. Local commentators speak of a “two-speed economy” with the resources sector and the states where it dominates (West Australia and Queensland) in the fast lane. Retail, manufacturing and finance are all in the slow lane.
May commentators dismiss worries about the two-speed economy, saying Australia's good links with China and India, which together by all sorts of natural resources and are doing so at historically excellent prices, inoculate the nation against economic downturns.
Others argue that industries experiencing trouble are in deep, structural, trouble. A carbon tax kicking in on July 1st 2012 is said by many as likely to make things even harder for struggling industries.
Another thing to watch out for is that interest rates are currently among the world's highest, thanks to the Australian Dollar being near parity with the US dollar. That means investors wary of sluggish equity markets are happy to park some cash in the Australian dollar to get the five percent or so on offer for deposits.
Housing is therefore expensive in Australia and can be hard to find, especially rental housing. Budget at least AUD$550 a week for a family home in a capital city commuter belt suburb, and plenty more for a better suburb or in boom towns like Perth. If a room in a flat is what you want, prepare to shell out AUD$200+ each week for your share of an inner-city or beachside location and make sure you have four times that sum handy as rental bond.
Families may be keen to know that government education is solid but not stellar: 49% of Sydney children now attend private schools, an indication of parents voting with their feet. North American families will find few familiar sports: basketball has a decent following, but baseball and American Football are almost invisible, both on television and as a junior sport. Europeans will be appalled by the low standard of soccer/football, but will have no trouble finding a club for their kids or personal enjoyment.
A few other things to watch out for include fuel prices, which at AUD$1.50 a litre are high for Americans (about US$5.60 a gallon) but decent for Europeans.
There are plenty of lifestyle differences, but a big one for imported workers is the fact that Australia has almost no few business parks: you'll almost certainly work either in a central business district or suburban office cluster. Prepare for radial train or bus commutes, rather than highway drives around or beyond the urban fringe.
If you come on a 457 it is also worth knowing that political debate around imported temporary workers is currently fierce. Australia's booming resources sector insists that without temporary workers it cannot commence projects that will create jobs. Unions aren't keen on that argument. As a 457 holder you won't be spat on in the street, but you may be asked the occasional curly question.
Another issue to consider is staying on in Australia, because if you like it here a 457 visa is no guarantee of an extension or upgrade to permanent residence. If you decide to stay, an employer who swears blind they'll go down the gurgler without you makes a useful difference. ®