Exclusively Expat! Top 5 challenges in our expat market

The pandemic has disrupted the lives of almost all facets of work, and expatriate work is no exception. InterNations’ Expat Insider 2021 titled its issue ‘The year of uncertainty’ to reflect the disruption of those living and working abroad.

In the Expat Insider’s 2021 global expatriate survey, participant expats stated their main reasons for moving back home were:

  1. wanting to be closer to family/friends
  2. lost their job/business opportunity
  3. concerned about personal and/or family health.
  4. discouragement of travel restrictions
  5. discomfort of living/moving abroad during uncertain times.

But what about the impacts on our Aussie expat market to PNG?

Straight from our expat insights, this is our take on the challenges being faced in the market currently.

  1. Limited travel: Australia’s borders remain under lock and key, closed and strictly controlled. With limited flight availability and frequency of flights and fluidly changing travel restrictions, this is has made it hard for expats and FIFO workers to freely move back and forward between the country. Inevitably this has been a significant deciding factor for expats to take up work or not.
  2. Visas: Prior to the pandemic, Australia handed out a substantial number of short-term Temporary Skill Shortage Visas, which streamlined the process for Australian expats to quickly fuel shortages of labour overseas. This class of visa was quickly put on halt, meaning expats are now looking at Work Visas which can take up to 3 months to process, which is often too long for many projects and employers to work with.
  3. Quarantine: Through disrupted rosters and impacted personal and family time, FIFO workers have been hit significantly hard. Normality has vanished as FIFO workers have been facing rosters of 12 weeks on 4 weeks off with two lots of 2-week quarantine either side of travelling. Additionally, expat workers have faced the possibility of full quarantine facilities and either being forced to remain in the country or if in PNG, potentially quarantine in overflowing health care facilities.
  4. Vaccinations: With Australia passing 50% full vaccination rate, this is leaving a lot of workers question the health and safety of travelling to a country like PNG which is sitting at 5% full vaccination rate. The country sits far behind its pacific neighbour, Fiji, who has reached almost 80% vaccination uptake. In fact, data collected by Our World in Data shows the following comparison of vaccination rates across Australia and the Pacific.
  5. Burn out: Accruing together the above challenges and arguably the predominant challenge being faced by expat and FIFO workers is increased burn out. The burn out created by unfavourable rosters, health and safety risks, visa hold ups and fluid country regulations is seeing many workers hang up their hats to stay with family and take up work within Australia.

If you have staff on the ground in expat roles, these are the factors you should be keeping front-of-mind. In fact, we have seen many clients taking up opportunities to freshen up their employees who are stuck in their working country, unable to return home due to travel, borders or quarantine. Consider holiday/leave initiatives to restore workers’ work/life balance, training opportunities to keep workers driven and enthusiastic and above all check in on them and their mental health.

If you lose your staff, you face many of the barriers addressed earlier in finding replacements!

Looking forward, as Australian vaccination rates rise, and the opening of the border is around the corner, our expat market is looking to move towards a sense of normality moving into 2022.

Stay tuned as we talk more about the future of expat work in next month’s newsletter!


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