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Workers leave NZ for better lifestyle

Workers leave New Zealand for better lifestyle, not higher pay

Improved lifestyle, not better pay, is most likely to lure skilled Kiwi workers overseas, a new international survey shows.

And men are more likely than women to leave for the promise of a better life, according to the survey of 5,200 finance and accounting employees across 17 countries by international recruitment company Robert Half.

It found 53% of New Zealand finance and accounting workers would consider a job overseas, with 39% saying quality of life was their main reason for doing so. More men (42%) than women (38%) said quality of life would most influence their decision

Only 17% of employees said better pay would be most important when deciding to take an overseas job.

“Traditionally, New Zealanders have moved overseas for higher financial rewards,” says Kim Smith, division director of Robert Half Finance & Accounting in Auckland. “But this survey shows a fundamental shift - they are now looking at overseas jobs in terms of the lifestyle options that come with them.

“This is a real wake-up call to New Zealand employers - skilled workers are placing a very high premium on fitting their jobs into the rest of their lives. They will change jobs and move city or even country to get the quality of life they want.”

The Robert Half survey showed employees were most likely to take up a job in another New Zealand city because of family considerations, with quality of life the second most important influence. Increased pay came a distant third.

And more than half of those surveyed said they would consider becoming interim managers (temporary or contract workers) so they could get variety or gain more flexibility in their work schedule. More men than women said they would do this to gain flexibility, which Ms Smith said emphasised the importance of quality of life.

“Having time to spend with family and attend important events such as school sports days is just as important to fathers as it is to mothers,” said Smith. “In this survey, 35% of male finance and accounting employees in New Zealand said they would consider giving up a permanent job so they could get that flexibility.”

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they were either actively job hunting or open to new opportunities. And while increased pay (34%) was the main reason they were looking, improved work-life balance came in second (20%).

The desire for better work-life balance also showed up when employees were asked what would be most important in choosing between jobs with the same pay - work/life balance was first equal with flexible hours or the ability to work from home, chosen by 24% each.

Smith said the Robert Half survey showed many New Zealand employers were making an effort to give employees work/life balance, as flexible working hours were the most common benefit - received by 48% of those surveyed.

However, it was important to match the benefits to the individuals, said Smith, as there was a significant variation in which benefits New Zealand workers ranked as their top five.

Women valued flexible working hours most (51%) followed by bonuses (44%), health insurance (42%), extra days’ holiday (36%) and a company car (35%).

But men ranked a company car as most important (49%), followed by flexible working hours (37%), health insurance and extra days’ holiday (36% each) and a bonus (32%).

“Employees are individuals and it’s important that employers remember that when negotiating benefits,” said Smith. “What suits one person might not suit another, so ask each employee what matters most to them.”

Work-life balance featured again when employees were asked what was most challenging about being a manager. Thirty-seven per cent of New Zealanders said balancing work and family life was the most difficult aspect of their jobs - surpassed only by managers in the United States, Hong Kong and Singapore.

“We’re hearing a lot about work-life balance, and some employers may be beginning to tire of it,” said Smith. “But this survey definitively shows that they simply can’t afford to do so.

“With recent statistics showing New Zealanders are working harder than almost any other country in the OECD, this is fast becoming the number one issue for employees. They’re willing to change jobs, move towns or even countries to get the sort of lifestyle they want.

“When you realise how many are considering changing jobs, and how acute the skills shortage is, it’s obvious that employers must take this very seriously. If they don’t provide jobs that fit in with the lifestyles their workers want, someone else will.”


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