New statistics show more Australians are moving overseas


Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggest that more Australians are permanently moving overseas to take advantage of business opportunities.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics say in the year to April, more than 92,000 Australians permanently departed the country, an increase of nearly 5.5 per cent on the previous year.

While New Zealand was the number one destination, Asian nations featured prominently in the top 10, with Singapore and Hong Kong the most popular.

Damien Bray, CEO of the Asian branch of video content marketing business Brand New Media, moved to Singapore four years ago.

"When we first started Brand New Media in Asia it was a fledgling idea and we were really pioneering, taking our business model for marketing services into a whole new territory where there really wasn't anyone doing content marketing to the extent we were in this region so we were very much the first settlers as it were, we very much view ourselves as pioneers. We took ownership of growing the category and being the 'thought leaders' in the category," he said.

Now the international arm of the business is expanding faster than the domestic.

"They call it the Zurich of the East. It's a very safe place to be building a business from, in terms of corporate structure. Singapore is seen as a role model economy to other Asian markets. It's probably replaced Hong Kong as the commercial hub of Asia, certainly for South East Asia it has, and it's a very known quantity. The Singapore government supports foreign companies very well in establishing and setting up, you've got a very good labour force here in terms of accessing skills and it's a very multicultural market."

Being based in Singapore has given Damien a better perspective of how to do business in the region.

"I think in the Australian market you can meet someone in the pub for a beer, you can build a rapport and a relationship and the next day you can be business partners, certainly it doesn't happen that quick in Asia, you need to be seen to be here and here for a journey," he said.

"You need to develop trust and relationships where they're happy to work with you and they're a lot more suspicious of foreigners coming in because, I think the very early days of international companies setting up in Asia it was probably fair to say there was few local companies that got burnt by the approach."

Despite growing up in Sydney's west, Damien considers himself Asian.

"When I meet people from around the world and and they say where are you from, and I say I'm from Asia and quite often they say, but you don't look like an Asian, and I'm like, 'what does an Asian need to look like, is there a defined definition? Do you need to have a certain skin type or certain accent to qualify as Asian?' But I think I am Asian now, I think, in terms of my sensibilities be it from my business view point or culture viewpoint. I think I now view the world [through] somewhat of an Asian lens culturally and I think that's been a huge growth for me and that's the part I've really enjoyed from being here."

Jenny Zhang moved to Australia from China in the 1990s but returned to Beijing three years ago when she couldn't get work in Sydney as an actress.

"There's just not a lot of roles out there for us, or the ones that we eventually get to audition, like once or twice a year, would have been very stereotypical roles. In fact my university graduation thesis was about Asian stereotypes in Western films or media, that's how frustrating it was."

Jenny now runs a consulting agency called Totem Pictures, bringing together Chinese and Western production companies.

"I definitely see a need, a niche for us and it's working. It's still a work in progress but I definitely think it's the right decision and hopefully with building up more of a portfolio it will grow."

Damien and Jenny are just some of the growing number of Australians who have left the country for now in pursuit of greater business opportunities.

Melbourne University anthropologist Paul Green says it's a trend he's noticing too.

"We're now seeing more Australians move and engage with work opportunities in Asia, for example, and this is partly due to the relaxation of immigration policies in certain countries and the need within these certain countries to fill skills gaps in a growing economy."

He adds the digital opportunities are expanding.

"We're now seeing growing numbers of what is termed digital nomads, or location-independent professionals. They're working from laptops in a range of tourism destinations in Asia but also in other parts of the world today. Typically [aged] in their 20s or 30s."

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