Live local, work global: In the era of remote work, Australia could become a destination for the world’s best talent


Outbrain's global vice-president for advertising revenue Ayal Steiner. Source: supplied.

In a world where many companies are shifting to allow remote work, the race to attract global remote workers is kicking off.

Australia should be a first mover.

The lens of opportunity

As the global pandemic rips into the global economy, one thing is clear: work will never be the same again. Cloud computing and cloud-based solutions mean employees are free to work from anywhere around the globe. We already see ‘first movers’ in this space with Quora, Liveperson and Twitter and just recently, Atlassian, all saying bye-bye to a ‘traditional’ physical office working environment.

Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo presented a very clear picture for Quora:

“Based on the experience of working from home so far, and weighing all the pros and cons, we are convinced that at least in our case, we are now in that future world where the benefits of remote work outweigh the costs”.

The trend is only set to continue, especially in the tech space where all you need in order to work is a laptop and a connection to the cloud.

This employee shift is a huge opportunity for Australia.

The reverse brain drain

I arrived in Australia over 11 years ago straight from the ‘startup nation’, Israel. 

Both Australia and Israel grappled with the same ‘brain drain’ challenge, seeing their best and most talented entrepreneurs and tech professionals lured into high paying, tech ecosystems in San Francisco, Seattle and New York. Global companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google actively headhunted the best talent to relocate to the US. 

But the tide is changing.

Australia can capitalise and drive a reverse brain drain. Australia is uniquely positioned to become a lucrative destination for remote tech talent working in Australia for global tech giants. 

Remote workers: A new breed of migrants

The ‘new normal’ (whatever that will be) will see many people working remotely, especially in the tech space. The pandemic has prompted experienced, highly educated professionals to rethink their current situation. There is a perfect storm brewing. People that relocated to work in the US are faced with political and social unrest, school shootings, a struggling economy, the raging COVID-19 pandemic, and just to make things even more challenging, working visa uncertainty.

In 1945, following the second world war, the Chifley Government recognised the opportunity to boost the Australian economy through population growth and introduced the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme (also known as the “Ten Pound Pom” scheme), fast-tracking and simplifying the process for European migrants into Australia. 

How can we do the same today to capitalise on the global shift towards a remote workforce? Australia is the perfect destination for global remote workers; it offers unparalleled beauty, great lifestyle, and cultural diversity in an English speaking country. And the economic benefits of having talented, skilled people working for global tech giants from within Australia are too important to overlook. 

The new normal means ‘jobs’ are no longer ‘local’

Migrants taking “local jobs” is now a false notion.

Immigration is an economical double edge sword. On one hand, population growth means more consumers of goods and services pushing the economy forward. On the other hand, some believe it’s hard to rationalise migrants coming in and competing with Australians for job opportunities while Australia is currently struggling with higher unemployment due to COVID-19. 

But global remote workers are not competing with ‘local jobs’: they come here with their global remote work.

Equally, this shift towards remote work also presents exciting new opportunities for Australians to compete for global remote jobs. But that’s a whole different angle on this subject to discuss at a later stage. 

Live local, work global

Let’s take a hypothetical example. Imagine a software engineer working for Facebook in California, earning US$150,000 a year, deciding to move with their family to Australia. Remote work means they keep their job with Facebook in California but they now live here. In this example, Facebook continues to pay the salary (probably through their local entity) but the employee and their family live here, pay taxes here, buy a house and new car here, and consume goods and services here. 

Through this process, Australia essentially imports a talent and creates a new ‘global job’. The numbers quickly add up. Assume 100,000 remote workers relocate to Australia and end up paying $50,000 per annum in direct taxes alone. This adds up to $50 Million each year.

If we can attract remote employees at scale, we have a genuine chance to boost our local economy as we deal with the financial impact of this crisis by injecting global salaries into the local economy.

We are not alone — the race is on

Australia has great people, open and diverse culture and great beaches. But these alone are not enough to get people to take the leap across.

Just like in the 1945, we need our government to set the right foundations for success by taking the following steps.

1. New remote-tech-worker visa 

We need to define a new type of migration visa for this purpose. In the tech space, solid experience speaks louder than any tertiary qualification.

If you can demonstrate you are employed in a relevant role by a reputable global tech company that is willing to keep paying your salary while you live in Australia, you qualify without the need to go through a complex point system, language testing or having industry bodies evaluate your professional credentials.

The process must be simple, fast and free of red-tape.

2. Active recruiting 

A dedicated visa class alone is not enough. Just like the tech giants running recruitment roadshows around the world to attract talent, we need to actively headhunt and actively recruit employees in selected overseas companies that allow the option of remote work for their employees.

3. Fast decision, agile execution

The clock is ticking and we will not be alone in the race to attract top talent to work remotely. 

Other countries will be quick to recognise the benefits and run similar programs. We need swift decisions and even faster execution on this front to stay ahead of the game.

Just like any tech venture, we can start small, adapt and evolve as the world changes around us. The investment required is dwarfed compared to the possible long term economic benefits.

We’ve boundless plains to share

Like anything, the devil is always in the detail, but we must set our sights on the opportunities. Migrants coming into Australia have always been a driving force of positive economic growth.

If we can harness the global trend of remote work and attract global remote workers to live here, they will in return help us advance Australia forward. After all, it’s in our anthem. 

NOW READ: Australia extends a welcome to Hong Kong “super” tech experts, via Global Talent Scheme visa

NOW READ: Why immigration will play a fundamental role in Australia’s economic recovery


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