Trends in Papua New Guinea’s recruitment market: five questions for Airswift’s Calum Smith


The recruitment market in Papua New Guinea has been affected by the economic downturn. Business Advantage PNG asks Calum Smith, Australasian Vice President for international workforce solutions provider Airswift, how the market is changing for both employers and workers.

Business Advantage PNG: How has the downturn affected remuneration considerations for PNG-based companies?

Airswift's Calum Smith. Source: Airswift

Airswift’s Calum Smith. Source: Airswift

The market downturn has meant that a number of companies are increasing the ratio of citizens to expats within their senior personnel. This means that Papua New Guinean talent at management level is under increasing demand. Salaries are being reviewed upwards as the competition for skilled local talent increases.

Across the full workforce, Consumer Price Index  increases of over six per cent have meant that the average PNG citizen is more disadvantaged; often, the minimum wage paid within an organisation is not in line with actual cost of living increases.

BAPNG: Have companies changed their employment terms when hiring to protect themselves in difficult times?

Some companies have increased the volume of their contingent or contractor workforce to retain flexibility and fluidity. A typical response to reduced revenue is to downsize the workforce to meet minimal capabilities—either through attrition or planned redundancies.

Unfortunately, another side-effect of difficult times is an increased tendency by some employers to seek ways to avoid PNG’s statutory obligations to minimise exposure to what may be considered avoidable expenses. Our obligation to both our clients and to PNG is to advise and work with all parties to ensure obligations are met legally and ethically.

BAPNG: Is there less movement? Are people ‘staying put’ in jobs until things pick up?

In some instances, this is the case. Particularly in lower-level positions, where the attrition rate tends to reduce during times of economic uncertainty. These employees are often the safest in continued employment.

The contrast, however, is at the other end of the spectrum, where the push for high-level skilled workers or managers translates into senior managers being more attracted to the increased salaries that are on offer elsewhere. These employees are more likely to relocate (or renegotiate their package) as a result of competition for talent at this level.

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BAPNG: What would be your advice to employers looking to bring in expat labour to PNG?

Bringing in an expatriate can be a long, time consuming and expensive process for any organisation, so it is important to ensure that you hire the right person to fit each of the requirements of the role—not just because they’ve worked in PNG before, have a certain qualification, or have been with a number of companies.

The cost of a ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ hire is exponentially worse, and potentially disastrous for a company that is on a sound trajectory. Ensure the description of the role is prepared to describe—and remunerated to match—what is actually required of the person filling it.

Compliance is key when engaging non-citizen labour in PNG. If you try to cut corners with the various requirements such as work permits, it will ultimately cause delays and lead to potential fines.

BAPNG: What would you advise employees looking for jobs to do to make them attractive in the current circumstances?

Every potential employee needs to consider:

  • What they will bring to a particular role
  • How they separate themselves from the pack
  • Whether they possess the right skillsets, knowledge and attitude for the job and the organisation

In a quieter economic environment, where there are fewer jobs, then naturally more people are looking and applying for each role. Employers are often seeking a wider range of attributes in potential employees, or a greater pool of candidates from which to choose. Employer expectations are then raised by their perception of abundant talent within the market.

When a candidate is presenting their CV, they should aim to provide their unique point of difference, and perhaps even customise it to specifically meet the criteria of the role. They should be sure to demonstrate that they understand the role and can show that they are able to address the issues. Add a personal touch to each application, but do not elaborate on irrelevant information. Most importantly, act professionally, be punctual and clean, and always consider the way in which you present yourself.

Ultimately, there is no foolproof method to job hunting—it can be a frustrating process even for those who have a solid career history and a track record for achievement.

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