Australia’s forgotten army in Asia key to our success

5 September

Despite having a growing expatriate community in Asia, Australia is not doing enough to engage and utilise this talent and is poorly positioned to do so in future, according to a new PwC report released today.

According to PwC Australia Partner and Japan Practice Leader, the findings of the report show the opportunity for success in Asia continues to pass us by.

“We have hundreds of thousands of expatriate Australians amounting to a forgotten army – overlooked by policymakers in Australia and passed over by business when they choose to return,” Jason Hayes said while launching the report: Our diaspora’s got talent: Australia’s advantage in Asia.

“Australians from every field are doing great things in Asia and have been doing so for some time now. Our expatriate workforce is also rebalancing away from the US and UK towards Asia, so the good news is this community is only going to get bigger. This highly educated and global savvy workforce can be harnessed to help produce a more Asia-ready Australia, but we need leadership from the government, education and corporate sectors to make this happen,” he said.

The report includes PwC data modelling which suggests that by 2030 there will be 450,000 Australians living and working abroad in Asia, representing one-third of our total expatriate community, up from approximately one-fifth of the total today.

“Given the paucity of available statistics on the number of Australians living and working abroad in Asia we believe our prediction is conservative,” Mr Hayes said.

“Our diaspora with Asia also includes more than just our expatriates in Asia. If we add the growing number of Australians who were once expatriates in Asia and have returned home to live and work that number would be significantly larger.

“It is also highly likely that increases to Australia’s cultural association, business ties, and networked relationships with Asia every year will see the year-on-year growth rate of this group increase.”

The report also provides a series of recommendations for government, the corporate sector, the education sector and individuals on what can be done to nurture, develop and tap this talent pool. These recommendations have been developed by PwC in conjunction with a panel of Australian expatriates, including:

  • Sir Rod Eddington AO, Non-Executive Chairman, JP Morgan & Lion
  • Doug Chester, Lead Independent Director, Kim Heng Offshore & Marine Holdings, Former High Commissioner to Singapore
  • Christine Holgate, CEO, Blackmores
  • Rod Lappin, Senior Vice President - Data Centre Group, Lenovo
  • Melanie Brock, Director of Business Development, Crown Resorts
  • Simon Henry, Co-Founder, Juwai.com
  • Michelle Garnaut, Restauranteur, M Restaurant Group
  • Kurt Mullane, Executive Director, Asian Education Foundation
  • Matt Godfrey, President – Asia, Young & Rubicam
  • Paul Hart, Executive Director - Head of Commercial, Knight Frank Greater China
  • Grant Dooley, Head of Asia, Hastings Funds Management

“Australia must consider how to capitalise on the new skills, contacts and opportunities our expatriates have formulated in Asia, and help those returning to reintegrate into the Australian landscape in a way that takes full advantage of their unique knowledge of the region,” Mr Hayes said.

“The recommendations in our report would be best implemented within the framework of a bipartisan national plan that recognises and assists our expatriates to deliver value for the country.”

The report recommendations include:

  • Compiling more accurate and comprehensive statistics on the size, location and demographic profiles of Australia’s expatriate population;
  • Making a period of Asia language study mandatory for all Australian children to improve Asian literacy across the board;
  • Directing more resources towards teaching of Asian studies (history, business, politics, culture); 
  • Utilising our Asian alumni to better educate boards and senior management on the Asian opportunity and arm them against domestic demands for short-term results.

Read the report Our diaspora’s got talent.

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