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Working in Brisbane

Find out how to get a job and work in Brisbane

Expats working in Brisbane contribute to the economic growth engine of Australia’s second-largest state. Will you soon join them? Our guide to working in Brisbane introduces the urban economy, the job market, local working conditions, as well as taxes and pensions for expatriates in Queensland.

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Employment in Brisbane

  • Popular service jobs in Brisbane are in healthcare, social assistance, scientific and technical services, retail, education, public administration, and security.
  • The tourism industry is growing rapidly in Brisbane, primarily due to of the abundance of foreign investors.
  • The nationwide minimum wage amounts to 15.96 AUD per hour, and full-time employees work 38 hours a week.

By working in Brisbane, you will be participating in a dynamic urban economy. The city, as well as its metropolitan area, is often called Queensland’s (QLD) “economic engine room” for its contribution to the state’s economic activities. 

Living in a Subtropical Climate

Living in a subtropical climate has many perks. For one, Brisbane holds some of the best beaches in Australia. Another interesting fact is that Brisbane is the most biologically diverse capital in Australia; home to over 500 indigenous animal species and more than 1,500 types of plants. However, subtropical climates can also have downsides, such as being susceptible to natural disasters.

Brisbane is built on a flood plain, which means that it is vulnerable to excessive rain, river overflow, and high tidal ranges. Hence, Brisbane is no stranger to floods. In addition to flooding, Brisbane is prone to heat waves, cyclones, bushfires, and earthquakes. For more information about natural disasters, visit the Brisbane City Council website.

The Effect of the 2010-2011 Floods

Australia in general has a good economic climate at the moment. The country is now looking back on 20 consecutive years of economic expansion. It doesn’t come as a surprise that in 2010, the International Monetary Fund rated Australia as the developed country with the best economic prospects. However, it was Queensland that cost the national economy 0.5% of its annual growth in the following year — as a result of the flooding in December 2010 and January 2011.

Queensland had actually suffered from a period of draught until 2010, when the dry weather ended in heavy thunderstorms and lots of rain. Those living and working in Brisbane were hit less hard than other regions in Queensland, but the floods were still a major natural disaster, the worst in almost 40 years.

The inundations disrupted railway lines, flooded mining sites, and had a negative effect on local agriculture as well. The employees of Queensland’s coal industry were particularly affected. However, natural disasters of such severity are fortunately isolated events, and the economic recovery is well under way.

Queensland – the Economy of a Resource State

Unlike most people working in Brisbane, a considerable part of the labor force in Queensland is employed in jobs within the primary sector. Except for tourism and finance, the QLD economy is mainly based on mining and agriculture. More than 50 percent of the agriculture in Queensland is based on meat and sugar; however, these commodity staples are accompanied by a large range of additional food products such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, barley, sorghum, and wheat.

In addition to the booming agribusiness, the mining sector is very active in Queensland, a typical resource economy. Coal, natural gas, bauxite, ores and metals like copper, zinc or lead, stones that are often used as building materials, gold, silver, and gems are of particular importance.

Agricultural produce and natural resources are key exports for Queensland, not only to Asian countries like Japan, India, Korea, China, and Taiwan, but also to the United States. Although this sector provides plenty of work for QLD residents, it is probably not an option for expats who want to start working in the city of Brisbane. 

Growth Sectors

Unlike most of Queensland, working in Brisbane is an excellent opportunity for expats with specialized skills in manufacturing or services. The urban region is currently moving towards a knowledge economy with a special emphasis on future growth sectors, research and development. 

The most popular jobs in Brisbane are in healthcare, social assistance, scientific and technical services, retail, education, public administration, and security. Mining still plays a huge role for many employees working in the Southeast Queensland area. However, the focus lies on providing highly specialized mining technologies and services for the rest of the state rather than the excavation process itself.

Working in Brisbane as an expat may also be of interest to you, if you have the necessary qualifications or professional experience in one of the following fields: financial services, energy production (with a move away from fossil fuels towards clean tech), information and communication technology, food-processing, or life sciences like pharmaceutics, diagnostics, and biotech.

Furthermore, there are a considerable number of residents who find work in the tourism industry or Brisbane’s fairly diversified secondary sector.  Brisbane is the third-most popular city for international tourists to visit, trailing behind Melbourne and Sydney. 

According to the Brisbane City Council, tourism contributes more than 3.3 billion AUD to the city’s gross regional product. In 2013, visitors to Brisbane alone spent over 6 billion AUD. The city of Brisbane is expanding the tourism industry rapidly, by persuading more people to invest in new infrastructure. Hence, there will be more jobs available in the near future for expats pursuing a career in tourism.

Manufacturing

Skilled laborers and experts working in Brisbane’s manufacturing industries are involved in various occupations related to machinery and equipment technology, plastics and metals, robotics and microelectronics, packaging and recycling, or marine industries such as yacht-building.

Brisbane is a booming port city, and as such, it provides plenty of jobs in the logistics and distribution sector. Having qualified workers in these fields is immensely important to the Port of Brisbane, which handles 50 billion AUD or 37 million tons of cargo each year.

Your foreign assignment in Brisbane will probably lead you to a new position in one of the aforementioned industries. If you are interested in working in Brisbane outside a typical intra-company transfer, you can find a few useful job-hunting tips in the next part of our article series on working in Brisbane.

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Jobs and Working Conditions in Brisbane

If you are looking for work in Brisbane outside a typical expatriate assignment, we have given an overview of the urban economy on the previous page.

Brisbane’s unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in February 2016, just as bit lower than the national average of 5.8 percent, so your prospects on the job market aren’t actually bad. In general, the workforce of Queensland can be categorized by sectors as follows: retail, energy, resources, logistics, manufacturing, construction, healthcare and social assistance, and education.

Whereas some of these sectors — like retail — recruit their labor force from local candidates, others have a near-constant demand of overseas labor, especially advanced manufacturing or healthcare and social assistance.

The Job Search in Brisbane: Eligible Skills

The demand for experienced employment candidates is also reflected in the so-called overseas eligible skills lists for migration to Queensland:

Even if you are not trying to apply for a sponsored visa or permanent residence, these lists give you a good impression of the relevant fields where you might find job vacancies in Brisbane and beyond. However, if you do consider migrating to Australia, don’t forget to have your professional skills assessed. The skills assessment process is an essential part of any application for skilled visa types. You need to contact the relevant assessing authority for your trade yourself.

Suspension of Offshore Skilled Visa Nominations:

According to Business and Skilled Migration Queensland, applications submitted between 25 July 2016 and 31 July 2016 will still be processed. However, as of 1 August 2016, Queensland is not accepting any new EOI’s (expressions of interest). This suspension is needed to address the current backlog of EOI’s received from the Australian Government and is in effect until further notice. Nonetheless, this suspension will most likely only be temporary.  This has no effect on people who currently hold this visa; it is only aimed at people who would like to apply.

The Job Search in Brisbane: Resources

No matter whether you’d like to work in Brisbane temporarily or have arrived with a permanent visa, you still need a job to earn a living. In addition to canvassing newspapers like the Australian, the Financial Review, the Brisbane Courier Mail, and the Brisbane Times, these online job portals come in handy:

You might also get in touch with Australian and international recruitment agencies such as Australia Wide Personnel, Hays, or Michael Page International. Moreover, your home country’s foreign chamber of commerce may have a job exchange, newsletter, etc., and it is always worth contacting your industry association in Australia for networking in the Brisbane area.

Working Conditions in Brisbane: Wages and Hours

Once you have landed an employment offer in Brisbane, you’ll be interested in the local working conditions. First of all, you should find out if your position is included in a so-called “award” (i.e. an industry agreement). Such an agreement describes most of your employment conditions in detail. If this is not the case, read up on general working conditions as regulated by the Australian government.

The nationwide minimum wage amounts to 15.96 AUD per hour, and full-time employees work 38 hours a week. However, this does not apply to management positions and executive jobs, where you are often expected to stay on longer to complete a project, prepare a meeting, etc.

All employees can be asked to work additional hours if this is both necessary for the company and reasonable for the staff. In most cases, this also means overtime pay or compensatory time off.

Working Conditions: Public Holidays and Annual Leave

While working in Brisbane, you are legally entitled to four weeks of annual leave as well as ten days of paid personal leave (e.g. due to illness). Many Australian companies grant their staff 25 days off, though, so you have some leverage in negotiating your contract. Furthermore, there are eight national public holidays and a couple of holidays in each state or territory, for example Labour Day in all of Queensland and an extra day off for all Brisbanites on occasion of the Royal Queensland Show.

Expat parents will be glad to hear that each member of an employed couple has a right to twelve months of (unpaid) parental leave, including de facto partners and adoptive parents. The only condition is that you have been with your employer for at least twelve months before the baby’s due date.

For every baby born after January 01, 2011, the Australian government also grants a full 18 weeks of parental allowance at the rate of the current minimum wage. As a former full-time employee turned stay-at-home parent, you’ll thus receive 2425.92 AUD per month.

Pensions and Taxes for Expats in Brisbane

Superannuation – the National Pension Plan

When you start working in Brisbane, you’ll hear the term “super” every now and then. The word is short for “superannuation”, the Australian retirement and pension plan.

If you are an expat with a temporary visa, you don’t have any right to an Australian state pension. However, if you make more than 450 AUD (before income tax) a month, your employer pays 9.5 percent of your gross salary into a “super” fund nonetheless. Don’t forget to claim this money upon leaving Australia. For this purpose, you have to apply for a DASP (Departing Australia Superannuation Payment) with the Australian Taxation Office. File the application online on the ATO website.

If you are an Australian citizen or permanent visa holder, you are entitled to an Australian state pension when retiring. The retirement age at the moment is 65; however this will be raised by two years to 67 in 2023. To make a claim on retirement, you usually need ten years of residence in Australia; there may be exceptions in certain social security agreements.

For more information on superannuation, please get in touch with Centrelink or ask in person at the Centrelink Customer Service Centre in Brisbane:

Centrelink Toowong

Level 1

17-19 Lissner Street

Toowong QLD 4066  

Open Monday-Friday: 8:30-16:30

Australia’s Bilateral Social Security Agreements

As a temporary resident of Brisbane, you should know whether your country of origin has a social security agreement with Australia. These regulations may influence the sum of your pension entitlements back home.

For example, if you are a German citizen sent to Australia as part of an intra-company transfer for up to four years, you’ll simply remain part of Germany’s national pension plan and don’t have to make any extra arrangements. So, always talk to your social security office back home to see how your time in Brisbane might affect your pension plan contributions.

If you have a private pension fund as well, you should contact your insurance provider for further details. Private pensions are, of course, not covered by social security agreements between Australia and your national government.

At the moment, Australia has social security agreements with these countries:

  • Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic
  • Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy,  Japan, (South) Korea
  • Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway
  • Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, the USA

Please note that the agreement with the UK is no longer in force.

Taxation in Australia: Fiscal Residency and Getting a TFN

After moving to Brisbane, you should find out soon if you are a fiscal resident of Australia, that means if you are counted as an official resident for purposes of taxation. If you have moved there to live “down under” on a permanent basis, you automatically become a fiscal resident.

You’re also a resident for tax purposes if you have been to Australia for more than six months, have held the same job and lived in the same place (e.g. Brisbane) for this period. However, to make sure what your tax status is, access the ATO website or talk to an accountant familiar with international taxation issues.

As soon as you come to Australia, you need to get a TFN (tax file number). In some cases, you may be able to apply for your TFN online (e.g. as a migrant with a permanent visa or a backpacker with a working holiday one). All other applicants need to phone the tax office (+61 2 6216 1111 for international calls) or call 13 28 61 for a personal appointment at the ATO in Brisbane’s central business district.

Taxation in Australia: Filing your Income Tax Return

The Australian tax year lasts from July 1 to June 30. You have to file your income tax return by the end of October.

As a fiscal resident, you will be taxed on your Australian income (with very few exceptions) and all foreign source income starting on the date when you became a resident of Australia. (However, there are some tax exemptions for temporary residents with foreign investment income.) To avoid double taxation, please check if your country of origin has entered into a bilateral tax treaty with Australia.

If your assignment in Australia ends before the fiscal year is over and you return before June 30, you can lodge an early tax return.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: December 06, 2018
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