I emigrated to Australia one and a half years’ ago, having lived in Greece (and Cyprus) prior to my move. I worked in recruitment before coming to Australia and now specialise in recruiting Engineering and Project Management / Control roles, primarily for the Mining & Resources sectors. The differences between the state of play in the Mining & Resources sector in Australia with that of the Greek economy cannot be more striking and are worthy of some comparison.
The current “financial” crisis in Greece has for a large part been caused by failings in the European and International Financial Systems and the incompetence and corruption of the Greek public sector. The Financial Systems for providing Greece with unsustainable credit and the Greek political class for creatively maximizing and mismanaging these ill-gotten funds. The European Union response has primarily been concerned with the risk of contagion. Greece only represents a small portion of the European economy and the risk of Greece defaulting under an EU framework would seriously undermine the financial integrity of the EU. There has also been a focus on introducing Austerity measures aimed at reducing Greece’s debt ratio. This has led to wide-scale redundancies in the public sector with those still in a job finding that their take-home pay and benefits have been slashed. Unemployment now stands at 48% for those under 25 – most of whom are university educated. There is little discussion on how Greece is supposed to bring about the long term growth that they need and the common consensus is that the current conditions undermine the potential for an economic turnaround.
By contrast, the discussions in the Australian Mining & Resources sectors have centered on how to manage the boom. Everybody is aware that the current high levels of demand for resources rests on the continued growth of the Chinese and Indian economies. These will inevitably start to slow but indications suggest that this will not happen for some time. There has been commentary on the trend towards a two-tier economy but for many Australians the resource boom offers an excellent opportunity to relocate, gain new skills and join the industry. On the other side of the coin, there are concerns that a gap in the availability of skilled labour may hamper the ability of the industries to achieve the desired increase in capacity. Companies are looking overseas to attract the necessary skills and the resources that are available are able to demand exceptional rewards.
The current crises for many Greeks is an affliction – something that has happened to their economy by forces out of their control. Some accountability rests with the Greek political class and the legacy of an incompetent and inflated public sector. However, for a large part the crises has been sown from conditions outside of Greece’s own control. They appear to have condemned a generation to a life of limited opportunity – not only in terms of available jobs but also with respect to education, health care, and a functioning civil service. The current boom in Australia can also be seen as a blessing – the increased international demand and bounty of natural resources are outside of the nations’ control. Of course, there are important discussions and important issues that are under the Australian sphere of influence. The sustainability and environmental impact of the boom is one. The desire to protect and maximize Australian interests is another – in terms of ownership of resources and in the supply of resources – both labour and materials. There are also agricultural interests which can come into conflict with the demands of the resource boom. The two-tier economy is also a real phenomena which needs to be managed.
Even with these challenges, there can be no doubting the fortunate position that Australian currently enjoys. For those who are looking to grow their business or looking for a new career opportunity it is worth pausing to reflect on your situation.
For the job seeker, while the favourable market conditions are outside of your control, you still have the tools to be able to take advantage. Manage your job search well – know what you are looking for, work with a professional well informed recruitment consultant and excel in the role that you are in.
For the Hiring Manager who is struggling to find the skilled Engineer, be thankful that you are looking to grow the business, be adaptable to changing market conditions but know that the resources are out there. Labour costs will rise during a shortage of supply but you will still be able to find the skilled people that you need to grow the business. My job as a recruiter becomes more challenging in a skills-short market but this is a challenge that I am grateful for.
A conclusion that I can personally draw from the above is that it was fortunate that I fell in love with a Greek Australian who was keen to return to Oz.
Cristo Mastoroudes – Senior Consultant