Brain Drain: PNG continues to lose its best and brightest

by Hilda Wayne

PNG Mine Workers in Australia
PNG Mine Workers in Australia

PAPUA New Guinea’s best and brightest elites are decamping to Australia and around the world, taking with them ready-made skills and talents and as it seems they have the best prerequisites for success internationally working in the resource industry.

Globalisation it seems has given Papua New Guineans the opportunity to become compatible internationally and they are experiencing better job opportunities they never had before. Australian companies are wasting no time looking for PNG’s home grown talent who are helping to boost its buoyant industry.

Based on the June 2011 Australian Census, Associate Professor Colin Filer, from the Australian National University, said it is widely believed that the single biggest group of Papua New Guineans working in Australia consists of those working in the mining industry (which includes the oil and gas industries), with most of these workers arriving since the resource boom began around 2005.  Most of these migrated through the 457 working visas sponsored by the employers and are either temporary residents or moved on to becoming permanent residents.

“It not unreasonable to suggest that there could be as many as 2000 primary Papua New Guineans now living in Australia who are here because of job opportunities created by the resource boom,” said Associate Professor Filer.

“If the resource boom has enabled 2000 Papua New Guineans to breach the walls of the Australian fortress, it is evidence that some Papua New Guineans can compete as equals in a global labour market and still contribute to PNG’s national development,” he said.

PM O'Neill at a recent Visit to Australia
PM O’Neill at a recent Visit to Australia

Senior Lecturer at University of Western Sydney, Dr Ben Imbun also added that it was time the PNG government realise what was happening to its workforce. Dr Imbun has made the PNG mining industry as his mainstay of research examining employment, human resource management and corporate social responsibility.

“Educated and skilled workers have had enough of what is going on in the country (PNG) with no clear sight of any progress. Ironically the influx of PNG workers to overseas extractive industries hasn’t caught the eye of the current or previous governments, let alone acknowledge it,” said Dr Ben Imbun.

Dr. Imbun said PNG workers in the resource industry in PNG are the lowest paid when comparing with other countries in the world in this industry.

“The dual salary between expats and PNG Nationals is extreme, where the former are paid three to four times the local salary, despite many of them performing similar or same jobs or even PNG workers in supervisor or managerial positions that count for nothing.”

“Many of the senior positions such as mine manager, financial controller, chief geologist or engineer are strategically fixated on having expats because of the equity make up of the those companies that it would be very difficult to accommodate a PNG Nationals in the key jobs,” Dr Imbun said.

He sited Porgera and Lihir mines as good examples where top level management, technically and administratively are expat dominated.

Dr Imbun said it was not encouraging also to see government appointments to senior policy and decision making bodies are made based on political affiliations instead of professional merits.

“It is sad to observe and read on the developments taking place regarding this issue and general level of corruption. There is a leadership issue begetting the country. From the national level down to the community level, lack of common sense, values, good will, etc have permeated them.

“The labour market, economy and general business is stressed that employment levels are not increasing. Everyone seems to be ‘milking’ the state for everything,” he said.

PNG economist  and respected author Tiri Kuimbakul also said it was an unfortunate situation for PNG when its valuable workforce migrate like this but added that conditions back home will continue to see more people leave the country.

“I will not apologise for being so negative. How can I say something good in the face of the facts as they are? My point is that until and unless people see real improvements in the areas I have highlighted and others I haven’t, they will choose to live and work overseas if they are given that opportunity,” he said.

Mr. Kuimbakul said as long as development and progress is at a snail’s pace and living conditions are the way they are despite the country being filthy rich, PNG will continue to lose its well trained and educated human resource.

“If you are highly educated, skilled and well experienced but don’t know anyone in the system, you will be passed over for a job you are more than qualified for. This is especially so in the public (government) sector, but sadly many in the private sector also practice it. So again, we cannot blame people for living in countries where jobs are given not on the basis of ‘who you know’ but of ‘what you know and can contribute,” Mr. Kuimbakul said.

5 thoughts on “Brain Drain: PNG continues to lose its best and brightest

  1. A good Govt with foresight can easily devise a strategy to twist and turn this mass exodus into a national blessing than a disaster!!

    1. John MUKA,,We did not have a government since PNGs Independence(37/38years) for the people.And they have not managed our country that well at all. If they have not realized the biggest potential (the Human Resources- the thousands of PNGians) then those brainless politicians will do the same with these ones in question.

    1. More and more are planning to move. We can not blame them but blame the government-very high tax and uncontrolled goods and services in PNG.

  2. the writings are on the wall. PNG is taking a nosedive in all sectors. Both public and private sector, resource, sports (the poor performance of Kumuls).

    The Health sector has taken the biggest hit. Where have all the doctors and nurses gone? Patients wait long hours to see them, some die in the waiting room. If that is not enough the politicians have the luxury to get overseas treatment. Like go to Singapore to get heart by-pass at the expense of the national purse. I’m wondering if they are the only one with a heart. The fact right now there are 6-7milion hearts pumping in that country…..

    Right under our nose the Chinese come in set up trading business, hire their own kind to do the very jobs our grade 10 leavers can do. Our kids hang out on the streets and with no future then turn to crime. Not a secret.

    Human Resource is most important and sustainable asset in any nation. The government should invest on the infrastructure and operation of these institutions. Even get experts overseas to come in train our students.. The Government seems to cast down this fact. Look at the University of Technology, where the cream of our nation goes to study. Politics has eaten the core of the institution. Those involved do not seem to care about the nation and its future. These very people are selfish and depriving future of this students and nation.

    This country needs a overhaul, from top to bottom. How?

    Start with education, train everybody again to have pride in themselves and the country. Pledge to serve the nation for the good of the nation. as John F Kennedy quoted, “ask yourself what you can do for the country and not what the country can do for you”.

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