By JR on Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Huge numbers of Australian-born people have some Irish ancestry so an Irish influx is rather like a family reunion. Irish people will find goodwill towards them wherever they go in Australia
A young hairdresser from Northern Ireland knew her prospects were turning sour about two years ago when the "old people" in her county's quiet shops started talking about how grim business had been getting.
"Everybody was talking about it," Brona Quinn, 22, said of Ireland's most recent economic downturn and the impact it has had on businesses and families.
Ms Quinn stuck it out for a couple of years, but about six months ago the strain of working three jobs to get a "full weekly wage," finally took its toll.
She secured a working holiday visa to get to Perth, where she had heard there was work.
"We had family over here they were able to tell us that they'd been to Brisbane, they'd been to Sydney and there was a lot of work in Perth," she said.
A jump of more than 50 per cent in temporary skilled visas from July last year suggests Ms Quinn is not the only one to notice the influx of skilled workers from Ireland, where jobs have continued to disappear following the 2008 banking crisis and ongoing financial instability in Europe.
Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship figures reveal the 3560 Irish workers entering the country on 457 visas since only July last year have almost already pipped the 2010-2011 financial year total of 3890.
Last year's figures were not shy either, topping the previous year's total of 2240 by more than 1500 workers.
Irish workers entering the country on permanent working visas also look poised to double in the 2011-2012 financial year. In December, the financial year halfway mark, the number of new permanent workers was close to the last year's total of 2934.
"All of my friends that I have are here - all in different parts of Australia - all the young people that I grew up with - they're all our here or they've been here or coming out here," Ms Quinn said. "Everyday I'm hearing of somebody new who is coming out or planning to come out."
The Perth reception desk at global recruitment firm HAYS has seen a "significant increase" in walk-ins from Ireland looking for work, according to WA senior regional director Simon Winfield. "Our reception feels like we've got half of Dublin in it on a Friday afternoon," Mr Winfield said.
"I think typically if you've been doing any research then you would probably want to be coming through WA or Queensland at the moment."
Mr Winfield said Irish workers on 417 visas seeking construction or property jobs in WA was nothing new, but he had noticed an increase of about 25 per cent in the past six to nine months.
Ms Quinn was among almost 12,000 Irish citizens who received working holiday or 417 visas between July and December 2011, according to the Department's records. The figures revealed a 30 per cent increase on the same period in the previous year.
"Also the demographic has changed slightly because in the blue collar space we've also seen graduate level and experienced graduates coming into the office as well looking for opportunities," Mr Winfield said.
"We've also seen a significant increase in the number of degree-holding Irish nationals looking at the white collar sector as well as the blue collar."
Accounts, finance, construction and office support are attracting the bulk of inquiries at the HAYS office, Mr Winfield said.
The influx has been bolstered by targeted campaigns HAYS and other firms have run for their clients to attract workers to WA from Ireland as labour shortages in the state related to the mining sector are predicted to widen.
"People are aware of the economic situation in the UK and Ireland and certainly are targeting those locations in the hopes they can find the individuals they're looking to find," Mr Winfield said. "When you compare the economics in Perth to somewhere like Ireland there are an awful lot of people who are keen to take those opportunities up."
Many people who have come to Australia on 417 visas seeking to secure 457s were finding success in WA, according to Mr Winfield. "We are finding that those applicants that are starting on a temporary contract on a 417 visa are becoming sponsored," he said.
Ms Quinn said she hopes to find an employer to sponsor her stay in Australia before her visa runs out later this year.