I refer with interest to the Ninemsn article today "Skilled Australians' departure at record". I really loved (not) the quoted senator's response of "...These latest figures also reflect the current global demand for skills and the internationalisation of the labour market as part of the broader process of globalisation..."
Two things here. Firstly that statement says and means absolutely nothing to me. Can anyone explain what he just said? Anyone?...Anyone?...Bueller?...
Secondly. I am one of these people who have left this year. I never left simply because my skills were in demand overseas. They were in demand in Australia too! I left because of two main reasons:
1. I wanted a lifestyle change and to be involved in a product development team here at MSFT.
2. Australia is an exceptionally expensive place to live. Australians are taxed much more and pay more for everything. You dont realise until you leave. Even Maccas is expensive in Australia...and Maccas is a very good indication of the cost of living in a country. Just check and compare the price of a Happy Meal from country to country and it tells a lot...
So I left for two reasons that arent identified here in the senator's ambiguous statement. I left because of a lack of interesting opportunities and because I just wanted a better deal. And I can tell you...even after nearly three months here that nearly everything is cheaper here. Tax is waaayyyy less. Food, retail items, cars, petrol....its all cheaper here....Im loving it! :)
And I have tons of friends doing the same. They leave to make money and benefit from the increased opportunities and then come back...much later. Though is that what Australia really wants? A bunch of people that leave for greener pastures and come back to retire? Hmm...lets think about it for a minute...
The cost of housing alone was enough to encourage me to leave Perth (WA, Australia); rent or purchase!
There are benefits and drawbacks to living in Oz versus the US. I've friends who went and have come back, others that have moved from the US to here, some who have gone to the US and stayed (Australia seems to export a lot of IT people and seem to import a lot of philosophers). Some people find Australian tax rates terrible, others find the US health insurance system ugly. I'm glad for my unusual situation of working for the US and living in Oz.
(I worked in Redmond for 7 years, now in Sydney)
Michael, I don't think the taxes here (in Oz) are that much higher. Consider that the high tax bracket doesn't apply to your whole salary - just the top bits.
Anyway, yeah - life is MUCH more expensive in Sydney than in Seattle. Salaries are higher, but not in the same proportion. Even within Sydney, you can find price differences of 2x for the same product, depending on location (it's a big city!).
However, if you enjoy good weather, the beach, or a more "european" lifestyle, then Sydney is miles ahead. It really depends on what you want from life.
(As for the work prospects: The work in the US is definitely more interesting!!)
Theres two points here:
2. The cost to maintain that lifestyle
After a good portion of your salary has been overtaxed at the top rate for a number of years, while giving you no opportunity to split it across your family you start to get quite jaded and a in my instance more than a bit bitter about it.
I frankly find the whole idea of any one of my earned dollars being taxed at over 30c in the dollar pretty offensive - and clearly a lot of people are feeling the same. There simply isnt a need for it and it displays a need for a more streamlined tax system and eliminating some unneeded government services to get Australia competitive again aswell as the desirable place to live. Im pretty certain after a few years you will probably want to come back here just to be able to get ahead...
In Australia you are penalised for trying to succeed in life; I know plenty of people that gave up second jobs because the ridiculous tax regime just killed the idea and it wasnt worth it anymore.
Australia needs to be able to compete and simply cant with the stifling overheads at every level. Why do you think its being swamped with imports and our farmers cant compete anymore?
Is the "we pay less taxes" argument reasonable given that taxes in the US are far out of whack with what the government is actually spending? If Americans were taxed based on government outlays then taxes would be a lot higher there. And that isn't even starting on paying down the existing government debt. If US state and federal governments had to not only run balanced budgets but pay off existing debt in the next 10 years, what would the tax rate be?
So is the answer to just keep rising taxes because the government wants to spend more money? I dont think so.
In the real world we all have budgets. If we spend over the budget we pay the cost in financing that but eventually the constraining factor of your salary forces you to eventually cut your costs in order to pay it back. Thats no different in government. The US government chooses to focus its spending in different areas than Australia and at present runs a debt. If it wanted to, it could cut major programs and rein in the debt - just like consumers do - but thats a choice for the government of the day.
The interesting thing in Australia is that a GST was introduced and instead of adjusting the PAYE brackets more like the US has (like John Hewson proposed many years ago), they were essentially left much the same. Then they sold a major public asset to pay down debt. Its little wonder the government was flush with our money :)
Now ask yourself the question - do you feel because of the increase in tax revenue that you are better off or the country is better off? (Take a look at the appalling exchange rate today at 67c to the USD) Did we get any additional services for it? Did they spend it any better?
Ill leave that open :)