These days if we hear of a land transaction, it will be a safe bet to assume that the buyer is a Bhutanese studying in Australia or someone who has just returned from the land of the Kangaroo after doing his masters or a PhD.
At a time when the country is experiencing the worst financial crisis in its history, it appears that the only people who have some hard cash in hand to invest in any venture in the country are people who have been to Australia.
This has led to a craze among Bhutanese to go to Australia for further studies. The idea is simple – try for AusAid or the Endeavor scholarship or any other scholarship for higher studies in Australia and take your spouse with you as a dependent. While you study, the spouse will work and the popular talk is that a couple can save more than Nu 5mn in a year. The logic is also undeniable – what you can earn in Australia in a year is much more than what you can save in a lifetime as a civil servant or a corporate employee in Bhutan.
This has made the Australian dream go viral in Bhutan. Everyone with a university degree and a few years of working experience has made it a top priority to go to Australia.
Moreover, going to Australia makes much more sense than going to any other developed country in the world. At present, the economies in Europe and the United States are not very stable and going to these countries looking for jobs is a risk at best.
Of late, the Australian dollar has also remained stronger than the US dollar. It is an added advantage for Bhutanese that Australia is an English speaking country.
In the past few years, the Australian government and the universities have really increased the number of scholarships increasing the possibility and the ease of getting scholarships.
The icing on the cake is the relatively friendly labor laws under which it is very easy to get work permits substantiated by Australia’s acute labor shortage which has further relaxed import of laborers to the country.
The shortage of labor is acute in many sectors. For example, there is an acute shortage of people in the Australian healthcare system particularly in psychiatric care and midwifery. An advisory authority of the Australian government, Health Workforce Australia, predicts a shortfall of more than 110,000 nurses in the country in the next 12 years.
A report from the Monash University in Melbourne says that temporary visa holders are taking most of the jobs in Australia. It says that the Australian government plans to grant immigration status to about 200,000 people annually to work in different sectors all over Australia. The Australian government also grants working holiday visas under which people can come to the country for a year and do short-term work to sustain themselves.
Those with student visa can work up to 20 hours a week giving flexibility to students like those from Bhutan to earn extra income. The report notes that those who go to Australia on ‘various educational, holiday and cultural exchange purposes…are primarily in Australia to work.’
A rule in Australia also allows local businesses to sponsor non-Australians to work there if they cannot find the required people for the skilled position. It has also been observed that the number of people working with this visa is steadily on the rise.
In the past few years, the number of Bhutanese going to Australia has been increasing. The two most popular places in Australia for Bhutanese are Canberra and Perth with each city estimated to have about 300 Bhutanese (students plus dependents) each. Other cities Bhutanese students go are Sydney, Melbourne and Queensland. In total, there would be more than 1,000 Bhutanese students and dependents in Australia.
Most Bhutanese students and dependents make money in Australia doing odd manual jobs like dish washing, housekeeping, or work in supermarkets and farms. Few manage to get supervisory jobs or desk jobs where the wages are better. Many students who have been to Australia believe that the experience of working there teaches them to respect the blue collar jobs. Working in a developed country also help Bhutanese people to learn new trades and some have come back home to start new businesses. In the past few years, remittance from Australia has also been soaring.
Overtime, Australia has become the most favorable place for Bhutanese to go. It provides the best combination of furthering your academic career and the ideal opportunity to make money. Therefore, the Australian dream is only expected to intensify with time.