April 12, 2011

AUSTRALIA: Grass is greener for those who change jobs

MELBOURNE / The Age / Executive Style / Management / April 12, 2011

By Adele Horin

April 11, 2011

PEOPLE who change jobs are likely to be happier and more productive - but are unlikely to take home a bigger pay packet.

This is the finding of a study that showed 17 per cent of workers, or 1.2 million people, changed jobs in 2008. The main motivation was not pay but concern about work insecurity and a desire for a better job.

The report's author, Ian Watson, said the proportion of Australians moving jobs each year was relatively modest, which suggested considerable inertia: ''It implies most people are reluctant to embrace change without a very good reason.''

But another report shows Australians are more likely to change jobs than workers in almost all other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The Watson study, to be released today by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, shows that when workers do change jobs few move interstate or any great distance. About 5 per cent both changed jobs and relocated in 2008. Only about one-fifth of these moved more than 500 kilometres.

But many job changers were adventurous, taking up new occupations or entering new industries - or both. About one-quarter to one-third changed their employer but remained in the same kind of work.

Dr Watson, who is linked to Macquarie University and the social policy research centre at UNSW, said job changing did not usually lead to higher earnings, or to a greater sense of job security.

''On the other hand, job changing does lead on average to greater levels of job satisfaction,'' he said.

Those who changed jobs acquired new skills and put existing ones to better use.

The study was drawn from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey that tracks families to record changes in their circumstances.

It shows the proportion of workers who changed jobs because they were retrenched fell markedly between 2002 and 2008 from 22 per cent to 15. Those leaving for a better job rose from 21 per cent to 29.

The report used personality data to show that extroverts were most likely to change jobs, and those who were particularly conscientious less likely to go.

Workers aged under 30 were twice as likely to change jobs as those 50 and over, and those in the Northern Territory, the ACT, and Perth were much more mobile than their counterparts elsewhere. Workers in casual jobs or small companies were also more likely to move.

A gender difference showed women in high-skilled jobs more likely to move than those in low-skilled jobs, a pattern not evident among the men. Dr Watson said people were loath to move far for a new job because they ''grow to like their neighbourhood, try to live near their ageing parents''.

The second report, also released by the research centre, says Australia does not have a labour mobility problem. Its author, Richard Sweet, says Australians are more willing than Canadians or Americans to move for work. Government policies to encourage mobility would be difficult to design, and promoting ''individual happiness and skill development'' would be preferable.

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