Work Culture and Labour Market for Expats in Australia

Submitted: August 2013

Work Culture

Though there is naturally some variation, there are certain cultural traits that are common to most professional environments in Australia. The first thing to remember is that punctuality is key! Make sure to arrive to work and business meetings on time or a few minutes early and stick to agreed deadlines. If you notice you might be running late, phone your business partners or colleagues and apologise. When arranging meetings, it is also a good idea to do arrange these several days in advance.

Company structures in Australia tend to be level, meaning that the distinctions between ranks are not usually very sharp. In all respects, teamwork and collaboration play a central role and those of lower ranks are also often asked to give their input at company meetings. Furthermore, initiative and individual accountability are also highly valued.

Colleagues are normally on first name terms with each other and academic titles are rarely used when addressing others. However, when you first join a team you should wait to be offered first name terms. The tone of communication is generally informal, yet always polite.

Business meetings in Australia tend to be rather formal in terms of structure, though they include components of social talk at the beginning and at the end of the meeting. It is common to shake hands at the beginning of the meeting and to exchange business cards. During meetings and other discussions, Australians are matter-of-fact; they state their preferences openly and directly, often with a good dose of humour.

Finally, networking is an integral part of the Australian business culture. Colleagues tend to spend time together out of office, for example it is common to go for after work drinks. Furthermore, there are numerous business groups and professional associations in Australia. To read more about this, see Business Groups, Associations and Networking.

Labour Market

The Australian economy has continued to grow through the current worldwide recession. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Report, the overall unemployment rate is at around 6% (at 6.1% in January 2015), which is lower than the world average of 8%. In fact, in several skilled areas of employment, Australia has a labour shortage, and there is a high demand for young workers with certain skills. However, unemployment has been increasing for the past few months, and, more worryingly, the youth unemployment rate has been hovering around 13%.

Expats that find themselves unemployed in Australia may be entitled to unemployment benefits, including the Newstart Allowance. In general, benefits can only be claimed by Australian citizens and those with a permanent residence visa who have been in the country for at least 104 weeks. Those receiving the Newstart Allowance must demonstrate that they are actively seeking employment and might be asked to attend Jobseeker Workshops. These unemployment schemes are regulated by the government agency Centrelink. To find your local branch click here.

If you do not have a job, or the skilled position you originally obtained has ended for some reason, you may find that jobseeking is tough where you live. In such cases, it may be a good idea to look further afield and consider moving to a job in a less developed area of Australia, using the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme.

For more information on immigration procedures and working conditions in Australia, see Working for Expats. To read more about finding employment and writing applications in Australia, see Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette.




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