One-third of expats returning to Australia to find work say they failed to land an interview.

Industry advocacy bodies have sought to separate the accommodation sector from a wide-ranging and broad study by employment website Indeed, which has found a majority of expat-Australian hospitality workers believe they are being discouraged from returning home.

The study, entitled ‘They Still Call Australia Home’, was conducted by Lonergan Research, which polled 440 Australian returned or returning expats and 330 recruitment decision-makers aged 18 and over. Also coordinating the study was Advance, an organisation which aims to connect Australia’s workforce around the globe.

A key finding in the study was that 65 per cent of respondents believe Aussies businesses are discouraging expats from continuing their careers after returning home. More than a third found they were not finding success in job applications which match their skills and experience. A majority admitted gaining experience overseas may not necessarily be to their advantage and that they may struggle to find similar work on returning home or perhaps even be forced to take a cut in wages.

Australians are gaining valuable experience by taking their careers overseas.

In fact, two-thirds of respondents admitted regret in returning to Australia and considering a return overseas in order to find a suitable role.

The study results were somewhat different from the perspective of recruiters, with 71 per cent saying hiring a returned expat resulted in a benefit to their business, while three in five recruiters said hiring a returning expat carried a longer-term strategic benefit. One third said they believed returning expats misjudged their salary expectations, with nearly half thinking expats maintained a self-inflated sense of their skills and experience and therefore expected a higher salary.

Accommodation Association of Australia CEO, Dean Long, was highly critical of the study, saying the findings from the “very broad” study into the accommodation and food service industry was contrary to the sentiment within the industry itself.

“The accommodation sector is a global industry that values the education and skills gained by employees who travel overseas. These experiences provide not only practical skills but develop their cultural sensitivity and resilience.

“Added to this the industry has faced significant skills shortage over the past few years with the addition of more supply. The Tourism Investment Monitor pointed to 27 significant stand-alone accommodation projects which opened in 2017-18, worth $2.5 billion and comprising 5,000 rooms and 127 accommodation projects worth $10.5 billion in the tourism investment pipeline. These projects require skilled labour to optimise investment outcomes.

“In these cases, intra-corporate transfers can be used by global chains to address shortages without loss of business productivity and to provide career development opportunities for employees. The industry has well documented skills shortages for cooks, chefs and a range of other positions and looks to both Australians and overseas applicants to fill those shortages.”

L-R Dean Long, AAoA and Michael Johnson, TAA

Tourism Accommodation Australia National CEO, Michael Johnson, said the reality was hotels are constantly engaging with a multitude of different cultures.

“Experience overseas is therefore an extremely valuable asset for an employee to have and given that many of our hotels are part of a global network, this can be a strength for a candidate in the recruiting process.

“Returning expats bring with them global leadership skills, the ability to manage culturally diverse staff, and knowledge of international supply/demand dynamics which are useful for our sector. This is part of a broader global exchange of skills and knowledge.”

Indeed Senior Vice President, Marketing, Paul D’Arcy, said it was clear Australia had “pull factors” which draw its expat workforce back to the country and that there was an opportunity for Australian businesses to capitalise on the skills and experience available in returning workers.

“In order to reap the rewards of expats returning home, employers and recruiters could embrace a change in mindset to one that looks beyond its own borders to one that prioritises ability and skill.

“Businesses would do well to abandon any preconceived ideas they have about what a candidate needs to handle a job and adopt policies that make the hiring process more objective.”