Home' Charter : 0711 Charter July Contents 32 Charter I July 2011
Cover > Talent
Ghana, where no one in their right mind would
go to live there if you’re already trained as a
nurse for Great Britain.
Secondly, we have people who go
overseas, say, to work in a law frm in London,
but they want to come back to settle down
here. And they come back with extra skills.
CHARTER: What other factors come
RG: You’ve got to remember that the world is
globalised. It’s not a bad thing for bright young
Australian people – scientists, academics,
businesspeople, whoever they are – to go
overseas and get some experience and come
back. They’re far more likely to do that these
days than they were.
The idea that as soon as they step on a
plane it’s a great loss for Australia is not the
right way to think about it in a globalised
world. We want our young people to get
overseas experience and when they come
back they’ll be far more valuable to us.
CHARTER: You’ve mentioned a global war
for talent. What do you mean by that?
KS: We’ve got a new era, or revolution, under
way – the knowledge-based economy. When
I give talks, I point out that the frst revolution
was a farming revolution around 11,000 years
ago. Then you get the industrial revolution,
about 1750 in Great Britain. Now, we’re onto
the knowledge-based economy, which means
it’s not what you can do with your hands in
terms of planting food or digging holes in the
ground for minerals or operating a lathe. The
key component now is brain power.
So in this knowledge-based economy into
which we’re moving, skills are much more, if
you like, part of an international market. So
if you’re a nurse, you can work pretty well
anywhere in the world.
For instance, here in Sydney, we advertise
for Irish nurses to come out here and the Irish
advertise in The Sydney Morning Herald for
Australian nurses to go to work in Ireland.
That’s that global war for talent.
CHARTER: How does Australia’s exodus of
people compare with other countries?
BS: In Australia’s case, about one million
Australians – about 5 per cent of our
population – don’t live in Australia. That
compares with the fgure of about 7 per cent
of Canadians who don’t live in Canada.
But in terms of a brain drain, New
Zealanders top the list. There are about fve
million New Zealanders in the world – and only
four million live in New Zealand. Some 20 per
cent of that race now lives overseas, including
more than 500,000 who live in Australia. That
exodus is only matched by Mexico – 20 per
cent of Mexicans don’t live in Mexico.
CHARTER: In our case, there are also
cultural reasons for that exodus,
BS: That’s right, we Australians see living
and working overseas as something we
aspire to. For instance, if you’re part of the
educated elite in Adelaide in your 50s, then it’s
a mark of your social success whether your
kids are in Adelaide or not. Oddly, you are a
social success if your kids aren’t in Adelaide,
because you have been so successful as a
parent, you can catapult them into London
or New York or Sydney at the very least. It’s a
sort of colonial cringe that ‘over there is better
than back here’.
And that’s now refected in Gen Y values,
even parental values, with parents saying
something like: ‘My son’s in New York. He’d
love to come back home to Adelaide (or
but there’s nothing for him here’.
CHARTER: Are there problems for Aussies
returning home from working overseas?
RG: Even in my day as a Chartered
Accountant working for Touche Ross, I was
sent on an overseas posting. It was nothing
grand, it didn’t last very long, it was just an
end-of-year help-out going to America.
But the partners participated in that
scheme and sent away some of their brightest
for three months or whatever
to help the American end of the frm,
I think believing that the people who came
back would be more experienced, better
rounded and more valuable to them. They
thought a bit of overseas experience in the
employment package they were offering
would help them retain people. And I think all
of that is true.
KS: There can be a re-entry problem. If you’ve
been working in, say, New York and you
suddenly arrive back in Sydney or Melbourne,
when you come back you think you’ve arrived
on the other side of the moon.
When you’re in a really big, fast-moving
international city you begin to think globally,
whereas Australia still tends to be quite
The disappointment can work the other
way as well. You fnd people who go overseas
– not necessarily for employment, it might be
something like doing a PhD at Harvard – and
they come back and fnd that doesn’t really
cut much ice with people in this country.
CHARTER: How do we ensure Australia
ends up with the right people with the
RG: We need to put a lot more emphasis
on education and training. And we must get
It's not a bad thing for bright young Australian
people to go overseas and get some experience
CHARTER: Is there a brain drain
Bernard Salt: Yes, and there has been for
20 years. If you look at the ratio of men and
women in Australia, particularly by age, it
fundamentally shifted in the 1990s.
Men just started to disappear – particularly
in the late 30s and early 40s demographic.
Those men weren’t dying, they were simply
migrating out of Australia to places like
London, Shanghai, Mumbai and Dubai.
Women would go as well as backpackers.
But women were more likely to come home,
whereas the men would stay.
So from the 1990s onwards, there has
been a growing disproportion of men
who travel and work overseas. They form
relationships, stay overseas or pursue a
career, and then work their way up the
corporate hierarchy to such a degree they
can’t easily get back. That seems to have
been the pattern and it seems to have
reached a peak probably about 2006-07
in places such as Dubai and the rest of the
UAE. For instance, in the 2006 UAE census,
there were about 15,000 Australians who
were living in Dubai: mostly men, mostly
aged 25-34 years old, mostly in property and
Ross Gittins FCA: I’m not sure we have
as big a brain drain as a lot of people think,
because I think it’s about perceptions – what
you notice and what you don’t notice. What
we notice is the young people we lose.
I think we’re less aware of the proportion of
those younger people who go overseas, do
a PhD or get overseas experience and then
come back. Often they come back for lifestyle
reasons. Their spouse wants to be in Australia
or they want to bring up their kids in Australia.
They may even want to come back later in life
to be close to a parent who’s sick. So you’ve
got to allow for that.
I also think if you count the Australians who
stay overseas permanently, you’ve also got to
count against them, the foreigners who come
and settle in Australia whether it’s for lifestyle
or career reasons. And I think when you put
all of that together, it probably isn’t as bad as
Keith Suter: It’s only a brain drain if you have
a net loss. It’s a brain drain, I think, if you’re a
place like Ghana, where most of the nurses
you educate end up in the British national
health system. I think Ghana has a right to
complain (of a brain drain). In our case, I don’t
think we can complain much about a brain
drain for two reasons.
The frst is we get people who choose
to come to Australia to live. We’re not like
Links Archive 0811 Charter Aug Navigation Previous Page Next Page