The Great Resignation Down Under is shaping up to be a wave of job hopping rather than people exiting the workforce, as Australians start to make career moves now that COVID-19 restrictions have eased.
The uptick in job transitions comes after unusually low levels of employee turnover throughout the pandemic. In fact, Australia experienced the lowest employee turnover since the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) started tracking labour mobility. In 1972, 17.4% of workers changed jobs, but in the year to February 2021, it fell to 7.5%.
With New South Wales and Victoria now finding a ‘new normal’ after months of lockdowns, workers have become more confident about seeking new career opportunities.
Insights from LinkedIn provided to SmartCompany show that the number of workers changing jobs was up 26% in October compared to the same month in 2019, with men and women changing companies at the same rate.
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LinkedIn’s figures also reveal that job seekers are in a stronger position to negotiate better contract terms, with the average number of applications per job down 63% compared to one year ago.
Mark Wooden, professorial fellow at The University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Institute and labour market expert, says it’s unsurprising to see an increase in people changing jobs, following the easing of restrictions in the country’s most populous states.
“The idea that there would be a shift [in job transitions] in October, November, December and January makes sense,” Wooden tells SmartCompany.
“But I don’t think it will be so great,” he adds. “You’ve got to remember that we’re talking about an increase from a record low.”
The Great Resignation first emerged in the US earlier this year, prompting Australian recruiters to consider whether a similar phenomenon would occur here too.
Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, coined the term in May, writing at the time that employees across the US were transitioning into post-pandemic work life.
In September, a record 4.4 million Americans — or 3% of workers — had quit their jobs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. To make matters worse for employers, there was a gaping three million figure difference between the number of job openings and the number of unemployed people in the US in August, with 10.4 million open jobs and 7.4 million unemployed.
Meanwhile in Australia, the difference between job openings and unemployment has been less pronounced, with figures from the ABS showing that there were 333,700 job vacancies and 707,300 unemployed and under-employed people in August.
Wooden says the dynamics in the US are quite different to those in Australia, where vaccination rates are expected to reach about 90% compared to 70% in the US.
“In America, there has been a big rise in people quitting because they don’t want to be working in sectors where they interact with other people or they’ve been forced out by a vaccination mandate,” Wooden says.
“In Australia we will have those effects but much more muted,” he adds.