Americans Looking for Work in Australia


Australia's economic boom is spurring a steady stream of unexpected visitors looking for work -- Americans, The Wall Street Journal reported in its Monday edition.

US citizens are heading to Australia in small but growing numbers as near-10 percent unemployment in the US drives more to look for jobs Down Under, where China's thirst for iron ore and energy is transforming the Pacific nation into an economic powerhouse.

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Daniel Davila, a 23-year-old timber floorer from Camarillo, Calif. -- a Los Angeles suburb knee-deep in the Golden State's housing dust bowl -- made the 14-hour move across the Pacific two years ago. He had been forced to take a job stocking shelves at a local grocery store for $8.90 an hour when he couldn't get work installing floors.

On a good day in Australia, he now makes as much as AU$50 (US$50.21) an hour --about twice the going rate for a typical flooring job in the US. He plans to start his own flooring business.

"I can make what I did in a week in the US in less than a day here," said Davila, who lives near the mining boom town of Perth, in Western Australia.

Australian government figures show just under 7,000 Americans currently working on long-term visas, an 80 percent jump over the past five years.

US citizens are now the third-largest group applying for so-called 457 work visas, after British and Indian nationals.

Americans with degrees in areas such as accounting or mine engineering, as well as other skilled workers, can obtain a nonrenewable permit for as much as a three-year stay. After that, they can apply for the renewable 457, which grants up to a four-year stay.

The need for workers is particularly pressing in Western Australia. The mining state's unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in November, below the national average of 5.2 percent.

rivers of heavy trucks can pull in six-figure salaries, recruiters say, while experienced crane operators can earn hundreds of thousands a year.

Luring skilled workers is a shift for Australia, which historically sent many of its most highly educated to the US and Europe, according to migration data.

Far more foreigners still move to the US each year than it loses in population. Only about 45,000 native-born Americans move abroad annually, according to the US Census Bureau's latest estimates, released in early December.

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