Global market goes both ways
From Singapore, Charlie Ferguson runs an “employer of record” — a way for companies to hire people in different countries without having to open their own business there.
For him, where businesses are based or the location where a task gets completed does not need to be as fixed and permanent as an office tower in an Australian capital. White collar jobs next in line. While the COVID-19 recession has so far overwhelmingly affected young hospitality workers, older white collar employees are about to feel their share of the pain.
“I would direct attention to the overseas expansion opportunities for small-to-medium and large businesses in Australia,” said Mr Ferguson, Globalization Partners’ general manager for the Asia-Pacific region.
“The go-between sees the potential for Australian companies to expand, matched by putting Australian workers into a globally accessible talent pool.
“So the opportunity for workers — not only in the major (cities) on the east coast and Perth in the west, but also in the regions — to now have access to a global job market is a tremendous opportunity.
“I’m a constant optimist, but I think it’s a glass-half-full story, not a scary story.”
Out of offices, out of cities
High unemployment looks set to drag on people’s lives, and the economy, for years.
Technology and the drive to business process outsourcing opens up regional — and global — competition to previously protected and high-wage job.
The dispersed, piecemeal work may benefit some people, but has the potential to be a precarious and insecure way to base employment.
“It’s a massive opportunity within the entire labour market,” said Frances Quinn, who consults to the BPO sector.
“To realize that I don’t need to have a full-time payroll person and a full-time marketing person and a full-time facilities person in my organisation in order to deliver the outcomes that my organisation needs to deliver.”
The tools for remote working — email, video-conferencing and file-sharing — have been available for almost two decades, but Australian companies have been loath to allow employees to work from home, even as commuting times have exploded due to suburban population growth.
Whether the response to the pandemic is a permanent shift away from what has been magnetic growth in the major capital cities will have to wait to be seen.
But proponents like Ms Quinn see the normalization of work-from-home practices — and more business process outsourcing — as inevitable for Australian companies.
“The pandemic has forced their hand in creating some of that flexibility,” she said.
“And that might start to tip them over the edge to realizing that there is another way.”
Sitting on her veranda, a half-hour from the nearest traffic light, para-planner Rachel Bragg feels the change.
She grew up in Coolaman, near Wagga Wagga, and watched young people like herself leave town to find work opportunities.
“Because there’s no industry, there’s no work there for people,” she said.
“One of the main reasons for creating this business is so we can create those jobs and you don’t need to go into an office.
“You can effectively have the big-city jobs but out in rural communities. It’s important.”