Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says the new pathway to Australian citizenship won’t lead to an exodus of Kiwis, but much higher wages being paid to our Aussie cobbers could suggest otherwise.
“New Zealanders travel and live there regardless of this. People go there for a wide variety of reasons. I don’t think it will make a significant difference to that calculation,” said the Prime Minister.
But when the Australian Bureau of Statistics is reporting the average wage across the ditch was A$94,000 - equivalent to $102,500 - last November and Statistics New Zealand says the average weekly earnings equates to an annual wage of $77,844 in the year to December 2022, the pay gap is surely tempting.
Earlier this month, RNZ reported that nearly 5000 New Zealand nurses have registered to work in Australia since August - sometimes for lucrative contracts of up to $8500 a week.
A Herald comparison of wages between the countries found the average annual wage for a nurse in Australia is $96,000, compared to $72,000 - and on top of that the Australian health system offers more specialised roles with even higher wages and allowances.
A New Zealand nurse working at a cancer hospital in Melbourne told the Herald when she left Auckland in 2013 she was paid $28 an hour. Now, after upskilling to a clinical nurse, she earns A$50 ($54) an hour and has the opportunity to earn A$55 ($60) as a nurse consultant.
“I’m paid so much more here… I’m not saying the treatment is better, but nurses are paid more and valued more,” said the nurse, who did not want to be named.
As a full-time worker, the nurse said she gets one paid day off a month to help with burnout on top of five weeks’ annual leave.
What’s more, as a nurse she receives what is called “salary packaging” which means A$10,000 of her income is tax-free to help with the family mortgage, plus tax-free benefits for a work laptop, meals and entertainment.
The nurse said Melbourne has the lowest pay rates of the major cities - “Sydney is amazing” - and 30 per cent of the nurses she works with have nursed in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation is seeking money in May’s Budget for funding for nurses.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman from teachers’ union NZEI told the Herald she had been getting “very direct” advertising from the Victoria Government on social media and YouTube regarding teaching there.
Although the union didn’t have any statistics on how many primary school teachers had taken up the alluring offer, she said it was “certainly of concern” for their organisation, especially considering the ongoing strike action under way over pay and conditions here in New Zealand.
Member of the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) Kieran Gainsford said the conversation about teachers moving to Australia is not a new one, and it’s been going on for quite a while.
Gainsford said people he trained with have already made the move, largely because of the better pay, but also due to the better working conditions.
“I don’t think it will make a big difference to the problem that’s already there,” Gainsford said in terms of the improved pathway to Australia
Auckland University international relations professor Stephen Hoadley told Newstalk ZB although the new pathway to Australian citizenship may be seen as a “breakthrough” now, in a couple of years many may be regretting it and we could be “seeing it in negative terms”.
“My first thought when I heard this deal was the Australians have finally come to their senses,” Hoadley said.
“My second thought is that it’s going to accelerate the new movement to the higher salaries and the brighter lights of Australia.”
Hoadley said it’s going to create significant problems for retaining staff in the medical field, the IT field, and other essential, specialised skills like trucking mechanics.
“These are all kinds of people that we need here that are going to be going to Australia getting higher salaries and probably not coming back,” Hoadley said.
Using figures from Trade Me and the Australian branch of the global recruitment company, Talent.com, here are some comparative average wage/salaries between New Zealand and Australia.