How Australia can dodge The Great Resignation

Jun 20, 2022
Dirk Steller

The boom in Australia’s tech sector, coupled with a post-pandemic shift in how people are working, could be the key to economic recovery and employment after the pandemic. However the government needs to help push this along further. 

For many years, Australia’s best and brightest in tech have opted to move abroad to broaden their skills and horizons. However, the past two years have turned this outflow into a two way street, with much highly-skilled and high profile talent returning to Australian shores. Why? 

Tech is booming 

There’s been an stampede of unicorns such as Atlassian, Afterplay, Canva and Airwallax in the local tech scene, and looking at the accelerated rate at which they’ve been sprouting over recent years it seems like many more ‘soonicorns’ are waiting in the wings.  

Startup hubs – there are more than 90 around the country now – have contributed to lifting the ecosystem. Secondly, built on the foundations of a A$9.5 trillion dollar financial services sector, venture capital funding in Australia has risen to record levels, growing 28% in just one year to reach US$2.5 billion in 2020–2021”.  

The changes in work-life culture that happened during the pandemic have shown more than ever that global roles can be executed from Australia, creating an opportunity for those who’ve developed their experience in places like Silicon Valley to come home.

And with Australia offering so many other benefits such as raising and being close to families, a great work-life-balance, many have answered the call.  

So if there’s innovation, capital and growth, then what’s the problem? And what’s this got to do with the great resignation? 

Where have all the people gone? 

Research from National Australia Bank found that 1 in 5 Australians changed jobs last year and a quarter are considering leaving their current employment. And 84% of employees want to continue with the flexible working arrangements they had during the pandemic.  

So we have a discontent workforce, in need of change and growth, and unwilling to return to a pre-pandemic work culture on the one hand, and a booming industry in need of skilled labour on the other.  

These are the cultural circumstances that lead to the great resignation in the US and it provides tech in Australia with an opportunity. It is an important trend that employers must recognise to create favourable conditions for their employees and get that headstart.   

Pay, obviously, is important. According to a Tech Council report “entry level, tech sector jobs pay 32 percent more than the economy-wide average [on a daily basis]”, and 64% more on a weekly basis.” 

Another report from Accenture states that, not only does the Australian technology industry generate “$167 billion annually and employs 861,000 Australians, but also “the tech sector generated 65,000 jobs during the pandemic, second only to retail.” 

But pay alone isn’t enough. 

The shake-up of employee share schemes introduced by former Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will surely help propel the trend further and allow start-ups to offer huge incentives and bonuses to their staff. This is a good example of how the government will play a key role in solving these dual problems and supporting the tech industry as a pillar of economic recovery in the post-pandemic world. 

As for training and finding new talent to fill the void? Tech begets tech it seems... Recruitment software businesses such as Reejig help businesses better understand the skills gaps in their business so they can hire more efficiently. And startups such as Go1 and Academy Xi are revolutionising the way people can access tech training.  

Universities such as UTS are offering micro-credentials and short courses that will also help re-train and prepare Aussie’s to enter the tech industry rapidly and with the most recent and necessary skills. However, once again, initiatives and direction changes like this will need government support. 

Government Policy needs to change 

The way in which the new government chooses to deal with these conjoined (but ultimately very exciting and potentially beneficial) problems, will make all the difference. 

The government really needs to adopt the TCA’s “1 million tech sector jobs by 2025 and 1.2 million by 2030” goals and work together with industry to ensure that those goals are met. This includes a commitment to re-skilling 60,000 Australians and ensuring 12,000 extra graduates enter the tech sector by 2025. 

Government support is essential in re-skilling Australians from manual labour to skilled tech jobs, also helping Australians transition from unsatisfying and rigid work to more flexible and lucrative high skilled work. 

“In order to grow the sector, we need the government, industry and its people swimming in the same direction.” - Mike Cannon Brooks, Atlassian co-founder. 

That way perhaps the tech sector can truly grow into its role at the centre of Australia’s post-pandemic recovery, both for the people and workers of Australia, as well as a key accelerator for economic growth.