NZ OE workers should be encouraged to stay – UK report
The report's authors said NZ and Australian workers represented an untapped employment market. Photo / Nigel Donovan
The New Zealand Herald
10:10AM Friday Aug 07, 2009
LONDON – New Zealanders and Australians follow a well-trodden path to Britain for working holidays but more should be done to encourage them to stay longer, a new report says.
Thousands of workers each year bid farewell to their homes in the Antipodes with the aim of spending a year or two working and playing in Britain.
However researchers believe Britain is missing out by not doing more to encourage them to stay on so the UK could benefit from their talents at a time when competition between nations for highly skilled migrants is intensifying.
A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a centre-left British think tank, said it made “sense” for Australians and New Zealanders to be offered incentives such as tax breaks, simplified visas and work permit extensions.
“Very little attempt is made by the UK government to encourage young migrants from countries like New Zealand and Australia, who come here for the 'Big OE' (the Big Overseas Experience) to stay here in the longer term and work at their potential skills levels,” the report said.
“More could be done to establish initiatives that target this group as a valuable source of highly skilled migrants.”
An estimated 126,000 Australian-born workers were living in Britain in 2008, up from 86,000 a decade earlier.
The estimates for New Zealanders were slightly lower at 52,000 in 2008 and 40,000 for 1998.
The report's co-author, Tim Finch, said the vast numbers of Australians and New Zealanders working in the UK for the short term represented an untapped employment market for Britain.
He and his team interviewed New Zealanders who had returned after spending a year or two in the UK and found that many had taken on jobs for which they were overqualified such as bar work.
It was a trend he expected would be mirrored by the experience of many Australians, who, like New Zealanders, often move to Britain so they can earn money to travel through Europe and the UK.
“What struck us was that they are doing jobs below potential and that with the competition for highly skilled migrants this is a largely untapped market,” he told AAP.
“But the government doesn't have any strategy or thinking about this well-trodden circular migration route of coming here and then going back.
“We could do with your skills.”
The report found that more than half of the six million migrants who moved to Britain from around the world in the past three decades had returned home.
In 2008 alone, the number of non-British citizens packing their bags was up 30 per cent.
The number of departures is expected to remain above 200,000 for the next few years.
Most immigrants spend less than four years in the UK, with those from the European Union and other developed countries, including Australia, tending to spend the least amount of time.
Britain on August 3 proposed following in Australia's footsteps and tighten up on immigration rules by introducing a points-based system.
However the report noted the pressure on the British government to tighten immigration rules could work against its long-term economic interest, particularly when it comes to attracting highly skilled workers.