Increased numbers of Kiwis are interested in working for an overseas employer from behind New Zealand’s closed borders

IT professional Fritz Gallardo lives in New Zealand, but his colleagues, bosses and head offices are all in Australia. 

Gallardo has been working for Cisco for three years remotely, so when Covid-19 hit and the country went into lockdown last year, it was business as usual for him.

“Technology is really the key. It’s made it easier for people to work from anywhere in the world. When you’re in lockdown you can’t go to the office or meet your colleagues in person anyway so it doesn’t matter where in the world your colleagues are,” Gallardo says.

It’s worked so well that Gallardo’s company has been looking to hire more Kiwis to work remotely.

He says overseas employers offered better pay and the time difference also allowed better flexibility and the ability to spend more time with his 7 year old son. 

Recruitment firm Persolkelly general manager Wendy Hewson says there is a growing trend among multinationals hiring staff in New Zealand, driven in part by many returning Kiwis still continuing to work for their employers overseas.

“A lot of Kiwis that came back last year are still working with their employers, particularly those based in the Asia Pacific region, but also the United States.

“They offer more flexibility and have also got great salaries. The ability to work remotely is so easy now.”

A survey of 386 employees across the country by Persolkelly found 60 per cent of Kiwi candidates or employees would consider working remotely for a position based overseas. This was even higher, 78 per cent, for those under 35 years.

Hewson says offshore companies are able to offer better salaries than Kiwi businesses.

“What some employers may not have factored in is that Kiwis who’ve been working overseas have enjoyed higher salaries and earlier uptake of concepts like flexible working, it’s time to sharpen up and innovate if you want to attract top talent,” she says.

“Companies here need to get ready for an uplift in churn. And they need to try and get ahead of the curve by frankly, offering to pay their staff more right now.”
– Tony Alexander, economist

Workers are also negotiating new salary packages being aware of tax implications.

“They’re quite interested in different types of perks like medical care, or a car, carpark, not necessarily just more money.”

Almost a third of the under 35 year olds and 18 per cent of all age groups still planned to move overseas in the next five years, the survey shows.

Economist Tony Alexander says the “virtual brain drain” is preceding an actual “brain drain” of talent that’s expected to come once borders reopen.

“There will be a brain drain. And in particular, a lot of it is going to go to Australia. Working for an overseas employer means people can dip their toes in overseas market by first taking on this remote work arrangement.”

Kiwis in the survey also ranked increased salary and health and wellbeing support as their top priorities while job hunting.

Alexander says if employers are not considering wellbeing support the conversation may be over before it’s even begun.

On Friday the government announced a $60 million fund for business advice and mental health support in Auckland was also announced. Businesses will be able to apply for up to $3000 for advice and planning support, and up to $4000 to implement that advice.

Alexander says the “great resignation” sweeping the US is on its way for New Zealand as the labour market tightens and workers earn more bargaining power.

“New Zealand and companies here need to get ready for an uplift in churn. And they need to try and get ahead of the curve by frankly, offering to pay their staff more right now,” Alexander says.

Inflation has also hit its highest level in a decade, rising to 2.2 percent in the three months to September, taking the annual rate to 4.9 percent.

Alexander says: “That just reinforces my warning to employers that they’re going to lose staff at a minimum to Australia, and they need to front foot that right now.”

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