Behind Australia’s ‘Best Jobs In The World’ Campaign Is A Real Job Shortage: Need Work? Apply Now

  @MarkJohansonIBT on April 20 2013 8:38 AM

How’s this for a job title: “Chief Funster.” Requirements include reviewing festivals and concerts, tweeting and blogging about them, and being an all-around VIP at Sydney’s biggest events.

Or, perhaps, these listings are more your cup of tea: lifestyle photographer for a popular magazine, wine and food “taste master,” Outback adventurer, park ranger in a tropical paradise or wildlife caretaker to a coterie of exotic animals. All positions come with an A$100,000 paycheck for a six month commitment and all are billed as “The Best Jobs In The World.”

Tourism Australia’s viral marketing campaign, which offers six “dream jobs” throughout the continent, has truly captivated a global audience. Applications closed last week after the tourism board received more than 600,000 submissions from 196 countries. Of those, 46,000 hopefuls actually uploaded the required 30-second video. Now, a team of 25 is locked in a small room in Sydney watching every single clip and whittling the pack down to the top 150 for the first of many big announcements on April 24.

If tourism has its Idol, X Factor or Voice, this is it.

“We even talked about maybe -- and we never followed through with this -- but seeing if we could’ve gotten the guys from The Voice to listen to each of the stories and see if they’d turn around,” Tourism Australia’s Managing Director Andrew McEvoy joked. “That’s what our world is about right now: advocacy and reality. The consumer is the judge.”

Like any of those reality shows, Tourism Australia publishes a mixed bag of contestant videos from the awe-inspiring to those that make you cringe with embarrassment. But the teasing will end next week, when each of the six regional tourism boards participating in the campaign -- South Australia, Melbourne, New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia -- receives the top 25 candidates. The public will then help narrow that down to the top three for each job, who will fly to Australia for final interviews in June.

Just a few weeks later on Aug. 1, the winners will be back on the ground in Australia hard at work cuddling koala bears, camping in the Outback and covering the latest and greatest the Sydney Opera House has to offer.

While the whole stunt may seem like a tease to bombard the world with classic Australian imagery -- and it most certainly is -- it’s also about something else: jobs.

The fact is Australia has heaps of jobs that it needs to fill. They may not be as dreamy as a Chief Funster and may not come with an A$100,000 contract, but if Tourism Australia has its way, you’ll apply now and hop on a plane tomorrow.

A Job On The Far Side Of The World

As the euro zone struggles with staggering unemployment rates and the U.S. inches out of its own recession, faraway Australia remains comparatively unfazed. Fueled by a mining boom that’s lured most young Aussies into resource-related fields, the country is, in fact, awash in job openings.

A recent study found that the tourism and hospitality sector alone has about 36,000 vacancies ranging from low-skilled work (housekeepers, waiters, baristas) to chefs and sous chefs.

“Australia’s tourism hubs are located in a lot of remote areas, and there is certainly difficulty in getting staff,” explained Dr. Larry Dwyer, president of the International Academy for Tourism Economics and professor of Tourism Economics at the University of New South Wales Australian School of Business.

That’s why the nation has, by leaps and bounds, the largest Working Holiday Maker program in the world. The program began in 1975 with the U.K., Ireland and Canada, and now allows residents of 29 nations such as the U.S., France, Germany, Japan and South Korea who are between the ages of 18 and 30 to live and work in Australia for up to one year.

Its initial purpose, according to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, was “to foster closer ties and cultural exchange between Australia and partner countries, with particular emphasis on young adults.”

Over the years, however, it’s turned into a job-recruiting machine for both the agriculture and tourism industries. The program grew by 23.2 percent over the last six months of 2012, and the department is currently in negotiations to expand it to residents of 15 more nations, including Mexico, the Czech Republic and Vietnam.

Have Backpack, Will Travel

Blessed by Mother Nature with pristine parkland, dazzling beaches and curious creatures, Australia has never quite lived up to its tourism potential for the simple fact that it’s so far away from everything else. In 2011, for example, Australia was the 42nd most-visited country in the world, according to U.N. World Tourism Organization figures, with 5.9 million people, or 0.6 percent of global arrivals.

Tourism officials figure the youth segment accounts for 1.6 million visitors annually, or 27 percent of the nation’s arrivals, and injects A$12 billion into the economy. Of those, at least 160,000, or 10 percent, are on working holidays at any given time, pumping A$2.5 billion into the Australian economy each year while simultaneously filling unwanted jobs.

Dr. Dwyer said the youth “backpacker” market has turned out to be a much more important market than anyone ever thought it would be because these visitors infuse money into the economy over a longer period of time.

However, inbound tourism has remained stagnant over the last few years due to the rising Australian dollar and soaring costs. On the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2013 list of the most expensive cities in the world, for example, Sydney ranked No. 3 while Melbourne ranked No. 4.

Consequently, many in the youth market have been scared away at the very time they’re needed most to offset labor shortages -- which is why there has been a major push to promote the Working Holiday Maker program.

“The problem with tourism here in Australia is that it hasn’t provided a lot of quality jobs with long-term careers for Australians,” Dr. Dwyer noted. “It has high turnover, poor pay, poor hours and a lack of career progression. Young backpackers are enthusiastic about the far-off destinations, wiling to accept poor hours and low pay, so Australia is happy for this pool of potential employees.”

The poor pay Dr. Dwyer speaks of is certainly relative. Casual workers in Australia make a bare minimum of A$17 (US$17.5) per hour. Even a worker from the United States might find that kind of pay alluring.

Pent-Up Demand For Australia

The Best Jobs In The World campaign is based on a 2009 initiative of the same name from Tourism Queensland, which offered one lucky applicant A$150,000 and the chance to be the “caretaker” of a paradisiacal island in the Great Barrier Reef. Briton Ben Southall edged out some 34,000 applicants from 200 countries as the ultimate winner, and his life hasn’t been the same since.

He’s done a six-part series for National Geographic and was involved in an Australian children’s show called Totally Wild. Southall still works in Queensland as a “tourism ambassador,” and when International Business Times caught up with him Friday, he was “in the process of attempting a world record around Australia” as part of the Aussie 8 Expedition, climbing eight peaks in the eight states and territories that make up the Australian mainland in 10 days.

The campaign that made him a minor celebrity also earned Brisbane-based advertising agency CumminsNitro (now SapientNitro Australia) three top awards in 2009 at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

Tourism Queensland figures that for the A$1 million it spent, it generated about A$70 million in global publicity in the first month alone and A$200 million overall.

McEvoy believes the six-times-larger 2013 edition will easily double those figures.

“We worked with Queensland and knew the numbers would be huge, but they said don’t be surprised by the reaction,” McEvoy said. “There is a voracious appetite for this concept globally, and there is a lot of pent-up demand for our country that this flushes out.”

The campaign has already generated an excess of 10,000 media stories throughout the world, and the buzz on social media is even larger -- a lot of free publicity for a drive that cost a relatively modest A$4 million.

The tourism board alone only forked over A$1.8 million for the project. Commercial partners like the career-finder Monster.com, airline Virgin Australia and youth-focused travel agency STA covered the rest. In the process, the team compiled a massive database of people who’ve signed up to hear more about Australia and its Working Holiday Maker program.

Tourism Australia also set up a brand-new Facebook page for the Working Holiday Maker program just before it launched the “Best Jobs in the World” campaign on March 5. That page now has nearly half a million likes.

McEvoy said looking at numbers from different consuls and embassies, Australia has seen about a 20 percent increase in inquiries into the temporary work visa programs since the launch.

STA Travel, meanwhile, has reported a 45 percent spike in Web traffic and big jumps in working holiday interest in both the U.S. and U.K., which, coincidentally, had the highest numbers of applicants for the “best jobs in the world” with 90,098 and 86,698 respectively.

Suffice it to say, by offering up six dream jobs, Australia stands to gain a massive pool of workers willing to take on all of its unwanted, un-dreamy jobs. And in the process, it hopes to turn six individuals plucked from around the globe into minor celebrities like Southall, who will “sunbake with seals,” “master the art of wine- and beer-making” and “soar across postcard-worthy landscapes in a hot-air balloon.”

“It’s a tough job,” Tourism Australia notes in its promotion, “but someone’s got to do it and it may as well be you.”

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