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171,029 gone: Australia facing ‘brain drain’ as workers flee

A departures sign at Sydney airport and workers walking in London
Aussies are leaving the country to find work in international hubs like London and New York as the pandemic keeps our CBDs closed (Source: Getty)

The number of Aussies applying to leave the country has risen sharply since business hubs in Europe and the US started opening again, while Australia’s border remains firmly closed.

The number of Aussies applying for overseas travel was over 10,000 more in June than it was in April, according to analysis by The Guardian.

In May 23,836 Aussies applied for a travel exemption, which increased to 34,616 in June.

Since the start of the pandemic, 363,796 applications have been made for travel exemptions and 171,029 exemptions have been granted.

And the loss of Aussie workers is having a big impact on our economy and businesses.

Labor shortages

Australia is already suffering from a lack of workers with job ads at their highest in 12 years with businesses struggling to fill positions.


In fact, the most recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that there are 57 per cent more job vacancies now than there was before the pandemic struck.

In May, there were 362,000 available jobs in the country and we had 363,796 Aussies applying to leave the country.

Granted, not all of those applicants' exemptions were granted, but it is a surprising statistic.

The largest increase in job vacancies was in the private sector workforce in industries like the arts, accomodation and food services and rental, hiring and real estate services.

What is a brain drain?

A brain drain in a slang term to describe the impact of substantial emigration or migration of individuals, according to Investopedia.

A brain drain can result from turmoil within a nation, the existence of favourable professional opportunities in other countries, or from a desire to seek a higher standard of living.

In addition to occurring between counties, brain drain may occur at companies and businesses as well when workers look for better pay, benefits, or upward mobility within another company or industry.

Australia battles COVID-19

The analysis is revealed amid Australia’s latest battle against the COVID-19 virus which has seen Australia’s capital cities plunged in and out of lockdowns.

This comes at a time when Australia’s vaccine rollout has attracted significant backlash with Australia having the lowest vaccination rate in the industrialised world.

Meanwhile, the United States has fully vaccinated 157 million people, or 48 per cent of its population, and a further 174 million have had their first dose.

The UK has fully vaccinated 33.7 million people, or over 50 per cent of the population, with a further 45 million people having had their first dose.

By contrast only 1.8 million Aussies are fully vaccinated, accounting for 7.4 per cent of the population. A further 7 million have had their first dose.

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