The Great Resignation has Reached Australia, What’s Driving it and how to Make the Most of it


Melita Long is the Director of Careers on Purpose, a Career Coach based in Melbourne with 19 years’ experience providing career change and job-hunting guidance for mid-career professionals. She previously worked as a Career Consultant with MBA students at Melbourne Business School and been on the CDAA Victorian Committee.

Since the world started opening back up, we’ve heard about the Great Resignation, which began in the United States in April 2021 generating a mass exodus in the job market. The trend has spread to Europe, Asia, India and beyond with Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index claiming over 40% of the global workforce were considering quitting their job, mostly from people aged 30 – 45 according to HBR.

The Great Resignation in Australia

Since September 2021, the Great Resignation has been expected to strike in Australia. So, has it happened here in Australia? Yes, the Great Resignation or Great Re-evaluation is happening here in Australia, and it has hit hard. 

A survey by Employment Hero, January 2022 shows 48% of Australian workers plan to change in the next 12 months, 42% would consider a job overseas and Victorians are 14% more likely to want to change roles. Latest ABS data for April 2022 shows that employment decreased by 594,300 people. 

Concerning for employers is April 2022 data, showing that while unemployment is up to 6.2%, the participation rate is 63.5% - the lowest seen in more than a decade. Meanwhile the underemployment rate is up 4.9 points to 13.7% and underutilisation rate is up 5.9 points to 19.9%, contributing further to the current skills shortage.

Causes overseas

In the US, some economists described the Great Resignation as ‘workers participating in a general strike against poor working conditions and low wages’. The cause of the Great Resignation in European countries has been attributed to burnout, exhaustion and feeling undervalued, particularly in healthcare and with young people.

Causes in Australia

There are similar reasons for the Great Resignation or Great Re-evaluation in Australia. This has come about as people have had time to rethink their priorities, careers, goals, and lifestyles after massive change. Employers looking for ways to stem the tide of resignations can gain some insights into the reasons below:
  1. Burnout – An Adecco study of 14,800 global office workers showed 53% of Australians had burnout but only 22% thought their company would help.
  2. Disconnection – A downside of working remotely for so long is the lack of social interaction. It’s much harder to feel connected through a Teams meeting. Employees of organisations that haven’t prioritised social time have felt disconnected from their managers, teams, and organisations.
  3. Financial – For many employees, the last two years under COVID-19 have led to wages freezes, hiring freezes, job cuts and redundancies. Those employees who have not been made redundant have had to pick up the slack of extra work due to staff shortages, leading to burnout and dissatisfaction. Employment Hero stated that 30% of Aussie employees cited no pay rise as a reason for leaving. 
  4. Flexibility – Most people are used to the ‘new normal’ of working from home; with more time for family, or hobbies, and avoiding a lengthy commute. The Adecco survey shows 75% of employees value flexibility, 53% want at least half their time to be remote and 57% support a four-day week. 
  5. Freedom – Like flexibility, some people want freedom. I have seen an increase in people choosing to run their own businesses. Having seen how easily they can work from home in a Zoom-based world, they’ve decided to do it for themselves.
  6. Management – The most common reason for employees to quit their job is having a bad manager, often including bullying. As the old expression goes ‘people join organisations and leave managers.’ The same is true for a bad culture, 49% of people in Employment Hero’s survey cited poor company culture as a reason for leaving.
  7. Progression – For many people, working through the pandemic meant being stuck on hold for two years, especially if there were hiring freezes. Some people used this time to retrain and upskill. According to Employment Hero, 31% of workers are moving for career progression.
  8. Recognition - Adecco said 61% of Australians felt more productive than pre-Covid, the highest of all countries. But not everyone has felt recognised or appreciated for their hard work. Employment Hero states 26% of workers cited lack of appreciation or recognition as their reason for moving.
  9. Values – I’ve observed that the biggest driver for people to quit their jobs suddenly, particularly without another job lined up, is due to a values clash. A BBC report confirms that 80% of American workers want consistent values and 50% said a values misalignment would lead them to quit. 

Opportunities for employees

Given the record number of job listings and the skills shortage, there has never been a better time to change jobs, make a career change, or even start your own business. SEEK still offers a ‘work from home’ job search. I have also seen that employers are less concerned about career breaks, so common during COVID-19 that there is a new feature on LinkedIn

Even if clients are happy in their current job or organisation, this can be an ideal time to pitch for a pay rise, aim for a promotion, or to relocate if their employer offers ongoing remote work. 

Tips to maximise job change and gain a higher paying role:

  1. Resumé - It’s time for clients to dust off the resumé - update it, modernise it, and include any new training and experiences, along with well quantified achievements proving added value. Resumé sets the tone with employers and establishes value.
  2. LinkedIn Profile – 85% of employers, 91% of HR and 100% of recruiters will check LinkedIn profiles before conducting interviews. LinkedIn profiles are more like a personal branding webpage than an online resume.
  3. Network – With an ideal role and where you want to work in mind, connecting with employees who work there on LinkedIn and in person can be a useful approach. Whilst it may take longer, it can produce a better result than via a recruiter.
  4. Preparation is key – Do a gap analysis to see if any any extra training or new experience is required. At job interviews, being prepared with quantified achievement stories and having your own questions to ask the interviewer is important. 

Tips to maximise career change to a new career or business:

  1. Self-Assessment – Before clients can find the right new career, they need to know who they are and what they need. This involves a thorough self-assessment looking at personality, values, motivations, strengths, transferable skills, interests, and ideal work environment.
  2. Identification – The next step is to identify what ideal career would suit them best.
  3. Research – When they have narrowed down some new careers or business options, it is very important to research what is involved, including additional training, time, and costs. It’s good to talk with people who’re already in that ideal career or business for the inside scoop.
  4. Planning – The key to a successful career change is a career plan, with stepping stones, training and networking required for plan A and plan B options. If they are starting a new business, this includes doing a budget and speaking with a business advisor.
  5. Back yourself – Change isn’t always easy and can be confronting, the more they can trust in themselves and have other people supporting and encouraging them, the easier it will be.

For people aged over 40 and considering upskilling or re-training, check out Skills Checkpoint, which offers a government training contribution of up to $2,200 for eligible participants. For those returning to the workforce after a career break due to caring responsibilities, check out the government funded career support in the Mid-Career Checkpoint Program.