Afghan interpreters’ resettlement scheme ‘doesn’t go far enough’

Concerns raised over proposals that allow candidates to settle in Britain only if they have 12 months’ continuous service Lawyers representing Afghan interpreters have welcomed the news that about half of them are to be given settlement rights in the UK in recognition for risking their lives for British troops but expressed concerns that the reworked package does not go far enough. Under the proposals, any interpreters who have put themselves in physical danger working outside British military bases will be offered a resettlement package if they have been working for the UK forces for more than 12 months at the point of their redundancy. It is estimated that about half the interpreters working for the UK forces – roughly 600 – will qualify.

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Afghan interpreters’ resettlement scheme ‘doesn’t go far enough’

Some Afghan interpreters to be allowed to settle in Britain

Government revises earlier plan to leave most army interpreters in Afghanistan after pullout, risking Taliban reprisals About half the Afghan interpreters risking their lives for British troops are to be given settlement rights in the UK under a reworked package prepared by the coalition government.

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Some Afghan interpreters to be allowed to settle in Britain

Time for a change as soldier turns watchmaker

A soldier whose time in the Army is running out has used the Service’s resettlement package to uniquely retrain as a watchmaker and has invented what he believes to be a world’s first in timekeeping circles.

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Time for a change as soldier turns watchmaker

National Security Strategy Published

The Coalition Government has published its National Security Strategy (NSS), ‘A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty’, which outlines its reappraisal of Britain’s role in the world, the risks to our security and the implications for the UK.

Together with the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) which will be published on Tuesday 19 October, the National Security Strategy (NSS) sets out the Government’s strategic choices on “how to ensure the security of our country and how we need the structures in place to allow us to react quickly and effectively to new and evolving threats”.

The NSS and SDSR together provide direction for national security policy, capabilities and resources for the next five years. The NSS allows Departments to prioritise their resources according to the risks set out in the document. Continue reading

Resettlement In The Rainbow Nation

Part First World country, part emerging nation, South Africa has potential if your resettlement ambitions are more along the lines of a ranch than a semi. But this multicultural ‘Rainbow Nation’ is not without its challenges…

South Africa is located at the very southern tip of the African continent, with 1,739 miles of coastline dipping one foot in the Atlantic and the other in the Indian Ocean. Land borders are shared with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The country is classified by the UN as a middle-income country. It has abundant natural resources, a well-developed infrastructure, and is noted for financial, legal, communications and transport sectors that have all developed in the past decade. In 2007, South Africa was ranked 25th in the world in terms of its GDP, and has become a leading player in not just African but also the world stage.

South Africa has 11 official languages (Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu) – only Bolivia and India have more! However, English is the main language of commerce, science and international relations.

The vast majority (79.3%) of the country’s 48 million people are black, with the rest made up of white (9.1%), coloured (9%) and Asian (2/6%) citizens.
South Africa is a constitutional democracy with relatively strong historical links with the UK. The Union of South Africa was a dominion of Great Britain from 1910 until 1961 when it declared itself a republic. The country was readmitted to the Commonwealth in 1994 following the end of the apartheid system.

The official capital is Pretoria, although legislative and judicial spheres are based elsewhere (Cape Town and Bloemfontein, respectively). Beyond these cities there is widespread poverty and, since 2004, the country has seen thousands of popular protests, some violent – many have been organised from the shanty towns surrounding the main cities.

THE ECONOMY
South Africa is a country of stark contrasts. Four areas – Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Pretoria/Johannesburg – are the nation’s economic powerhouses but, outside of these spheres of influence, many South Africans still live in severe poverty – despite the efforts of successive governments following the end of apartheid. Only a few areas have bucked the trend and have seen rapid growth in recent years – these include Mossel Bay, Plettenberg Bay Rustenburg area, Nelspruit area, Bloemfontein, Cape West Coast and the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.

Unemployment is a real problem for South Africans and has continued to worsen in recent years, generally along racial lines. In 1995 the average white household earned four times the average black household; five years later, the average was six times. This is still a country in flux after the huge cultural shift seen at the end of apartheid; there’s still some distance left to run. That said, affirmative action policies have seen a rise in black economic wealth and an emerging black middle class.

With the South African Rand (ZAR) worth around 8p you should be able to afford the odd bottle of Chardonnay. Average house prices are highest in the North and in West Johannesburg at roughly ZAR 1,322,279 (£105,000). There are plenty of opportunities in South Africa for a very comfortable resettlement; and companies as diverse as Barclays and Vodafone are beginning to see the country as a prime business location.

HEALTH AND SECURITY
For many years successive governments did little or nothing to combat the spread of HIV and Aids in South Africa, leading to the death of an estimated 250,000 people in 2008 alone. Under the leadership of Kgalema Motlanthe, this has begun to change, but the country’s largely Roman Catholic population still makes the use of contraception controversial.

In general, however, the country’s public health service is over subscribed and underfunded; those who can afford it have turned to a flourishing hi-tech private healthcare system, furthering the gap between rich and poor.

Like many other African nations, South Africa has experienced a ‘brain drain’ during the last 20 years, reflecting the aspiration amongst certain racial groups and also ongoing fears about crime levels and violence. Crime against the farming community has continued to be a major problem. Middle-class South Africans often seek the better security of gated communities.

A SPORTING CHANCE
South Africans love sport – in particular soccer, rugby union and cricket – and the outdoor life. Perhaps this is because of the country’s large open spaces and a relatively temperate climate (between 8°C in June and 28°C in February). Although soccer commands the greatest following among the young, other sports like basketball, surfing and skateboarding are increasingly popular.

Another factor could be that South Africans were, for decades, starved of international competition as a result of numerous apartheid-inspired boycotts. Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup (which they won at the first attempt), the 2003 Cricket World Cup and the 2007 World Twenty20 Championship. South Africa will, of course, be the host nation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup – the first time the prestigious event has been held on African soil.

The persistent sunshine aside, South Africans were found to be the eighth most optimistic people in the world, according to a survey by Gallup in 2005.

SOUTH AFRICAN TOP SPOTS
Johannesburg: (also known as Jozi or Jo’burg) is recognised as one of the most popular and affordable cities for immigrants. It is the largest and wealthiest city in South Africa, with the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa. While not officially one of South Africa’s three capitals, it’s home to the Constitutional Court – South Africa’s highest legal institution.

Cape Town: the provincial capital of the Western Cape is the country’s largest city (in terms of area, if not population), and most popular tourist destination. It’s also the legislative capital of South Africa, home to the National Parliament and many government offices. The city is famed for Table Mountain, which looks over the city, and its harbour.

Durban: the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal is the busiest port in Africa, and also a major centre for tourism thanks to its subtropical climate and beaches. Durban is the third most populous city in South Africa, forming part of the Thekwini metropolitan municipality. It is renowned as being a safe city with a good atmosphere.

Germiston: established in the early days of the country’s gold rush, this was by 1921 home to the world’s largest gold refinery, the Rand Refinery. This is South Africa’s sixth-largest city, its biggest railway junction and the seat of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality which includes much of the East Rand.

Pretoria: located in the northern part of Gauteng Province, this serves as the country’s administrative centre and de facto national capital. Regarded as a leafy, sedate city, Pretoria sits in a warm, sheltered valley surrounded by the hills of the Magaliesberg range that ensure that temperatures here are invariably a few degrees warmer than Johannesburg.

Port Elizabeth: situated in the Eastern Cape Province, the city is often known by the shortened name PE and nicknamed ‘The Friendly City’ or ‘The Windy City’. It is one of the major seaports in South Africa and, unsurprisingly, is also known as Africa’s Water sport Capital, and is part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality which has a population of more than 1.3 million people.

SOUTH AFRICAN PROVERBS
A chattering bird builds no nest.
A fool is a wise man’s ladder.
A termite grows up in dry wood, and yet comes to maturity.
Abundance does not spread; famine does.
Almost is not eaten.
An Elder does not break wind in public, but in a latrine.
As great birds die the eggs rot.
Before you milk a cow tie it up.
Behold the iguana puffing itself out to make itself a man.
By pounding the dough the bread will rise.

. . .

IMMIGRATING TO SOUTH AFRICA
Requirements for immigration to South Africa are subject to change, and each application is treated as an individual case.

While looking to encourage foreign investment, South Africa nevertheless is looking for immigrants who are ‘seriously committed to investing their assets, skills and experience for the benefit of themselves and the people of South Africa’. Basic requirements are that you should be of good character, be unlikely to harm the welfare of the country and not follow an unskilled or semi-skilled occupation for which there are already sufficient people in South Africa to meet the country’s needs. Applications should usually be made in your country of residence (in the UK, through the South African High Commission), although you can apply while in South Africa on a valid work permit, are married to (or are the child of) a South African citizen.

MORE:
South African High Commission
020 7451 7299, www.southafricahouse.com

Land of the long white cloud

Brought to public attention as the filming location for Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, New Zealand – in the Māori tongue Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud –has much to offer.

New Zealand is literally half a world away from the UK which, depending on how you feel about things, could be the biggest single incentive to actually relocate there! When it comes to distance, though, New Zealand is pretty far from everywhere. Mainland Britain is just 22 miles away from nearest neighbour, France; New Zealand, in comparison, is 1,180 miles from Australia – nobody, even covered in goose grease, is going to swim that!

The two main islands that make up New Zealand have an area of 166,950 square miles, not that dissimilar to that of the UK. The big difference, though, is that more than half of the country is given over to pasture and arable farmland, while a further quarter is taken up by forest. Plus, roughly one tenth of New Zealand is considered ‘alpine’ terrain; the South Island has a thick spine of mountains running most of its length, great for skiing and climbing.

Summer is inverted compared with the UK, starting in December. Throughout the year temperatures will range from eight Celsius to highs of 23 Celsius in January with the added bonus of far more sunshine during winter months. Pale and pasty Europeans should take care of themselves in the rays!

THE BASICS

New Zealand has a population of roughly 4.3 million; the majority live in the more urbanised North Island. The main language is English.

New Zealand is home to around 50,000 Maori who arrived in the country roughly 1,000 years ago and are still the largest non-European group.

New Zealand is an independent, constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth. The head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, is represented by a Governor General who summons and dissolves the New Zealand parliament and assents to legislation on her behalf.

Anybody who is 18 or older has the right to vote, including permanent residents who fulfil certain criteria that also apply to New Zealand citizens. To be eligible to vote you will have to have lived in the country for at least a year at some point, have visited the country in the last three years and been present for at least one month in the electorate you wish to be enrolled in.

The New Zealand justice system is based on the English model and is independent of the government.

LIVING

New Zealand has a non-contributory healthcare scheme, with benefits financed directly from general taxation. Immigrants are not eligible to receive unemployment or sickness benefit until they have resided in the country for at least two years.

Anyone can access healthcare services as soon as a residence permit is granted. Visits to the doctor are chargeable with costs that range from NZD$10 for children (six years and older) to NZD$45 for adult. Should you need to stay in hospital for treatment you can choose whether to use a free public hospital or pay for private treatment.

Although healthcare is praised, roughly 60% of the population choose to supplement it with private health insurance.

Most children begin formal education at the tender age of two and a half years, starting primary school at five. Education is free at state schools, though there is a movement towards charging “optional fees” to cover extra equipment and facilities.

New Zealand has eight Universities and 20 Polytechnics, Institutes of Technology and Colleges, offering a broad range of courses in professional, technical, vocational and trade areas. There are also many private tertiary education providers registered with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority; these could be ideal if you’re looking to train in a completely different field after military discharge.

The cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all have international airports. Several domestic airlines operate across the country, with ferries also available between the main islands.

British or International Drivers Licences remain valid for 12 months after arrival, but once this expires you must pass a theory and practical test in order to obtain a full licence. You can apply for an exemption from the practical test if you’ve held a full UK licence for at least two years.

As in the UK, you drive on the left hand side of the road; speed limits are normally 62mph on highways and 31mph in built-up areas. There are strict penalties imposed for speeding, not wearing a seatbelt or drink-driving.

The standard of living is high and the costs involved are relatively low. One pound sterling is worth NZD$ 0.42. A suggested weekly budget for a family of four is set at around NZ$900 (£379).

The national average for a family home (around 170 square metres) – wooden construction, three/four bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, bathroom/toilet and lounge – is around NZD$340,000 (£143,180).

NEW ZEALAND TOP TEN

Auckland: known as the city of sails, Auckland is surrounded by subtropical island and beautiful forests. New Zealand’s biggest city (population 1,320,000). www.aucklandcity.govt.nz

Christchurch: offers a mix of historic and exciting city life, the second-largest city in New Zealand and largest on the South Island. www.ccc.govt.nz

Dunedin: home of the University of Otago, the oldest university in New Zealand, this vibrant city offers classical architecture and cultural heritage. www.cityofdunedin.com

Hamilton: a major centre for the agricultural region of Waikato, this city straddles the banks of the Waikato river. www.hamilton.co.nz

Invercargill: New Zealand’s southernmost city and a bustling provincial hub for the rural Southland community. www.icc.govt.nz

Nelson: renowned for its natural produce, national parks and beaches with year-round sunshine, Nelson’s relaxed communal character has attracted a large creative community of working artists. www.nelsoncitycouncil.co.nz

New Plymouth: the urban centre of the Taranaki region, where dairy farming and energy are the two main industries. The dramatic Mount Taranaki dominates the skyline and hints at a lifestyle based on a love of the great outdoors. www.newplymouthnz.com

Palmerston North: one of the country’s largest provincial cities, Palmerston North is situated in the rural Manawatu region. Massey University students give the city a lively flavour. www.pncc.govt.nz

Tauranga: New Zealand’s favourite holiday destination, thanks to its position at the mouth of a natural harbour and the warm coastal climate and white beaches. www.tauranga.govt.nz

Wellington: the nation’s capital is situated at the edge of a harbour and is enclosed by green hills. Though small, Wellington continues to be the cultural heart of New Zealand.

www.wellington.govt.nz

EMIGRATING TO NEW ZEALAND

The New Zealand immigration system is fairly complicated. You can apply for permanent residence under several categories:

-          Skilled Migrant: this is the most popular visa class for permanent residents. You must be under 56 years old and meet the health, character and English language requirements before lodging an ‘Expression of Interest’ with Immigration New Zealand.

-          Family: you can apply as a partner of a New Zealand citizen or resident, if you have a parent or sibling who is a permanent resident or if you’re the parent of adult children living in New Zealand.

-          Business: permanent residency is also open to business owners, company directors or those with a successful history of self-employment and business ownership. There’s no minimum capital investment, though you will have to submit a viable, well-researched business plan and sufficient funds to establish the business. You can also apply for Permanent Residency

For further information and to select the most relevant category for you, visit: www.immigration.govt.nz

I’ve never been to New Zealand before. But one of my role models, Xena, the warrior princess, comes from there.

(Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State)

“New Zealand is not a small country but a large village.” (Peter Jackson, film maker)

“That was the big effect Lord of the Rings had on me. It was discovering New Zealand. And even more precious were the people – not at all like the Australians.” (Sir Ian McKellen, actor)

“Altogether too many sheep.” (George Bernard Shaw, playwright)

“I myself prefer my New Zealand eggs for breakfast.” (HM The Queen)

HEAVENLY CREATURES?

Adventurous types might be disappointed with the lack of wilderness action; there are no snakes, scorpions, bears, alligators, crocodiles, dragons, giants or orcs. They do have spiders, but only one can give you a nasty (and non-fatal) nip.

NORTHERN LIGHTS

This issue’s resettlement sitrep focuses on a destinations highly popular with many Brits – Canada!

Canada isn’t the US – which is either a huge plus or a big minus, depending on what you’re looking for in life! Most Canadians, though, like being different from their southern neighbours. Both nations are, of course, built on immigration, but the general view is that Canada has a much more relaxed and pluralistic society – officially confirmed by the 1988 Multiculturalism Act. Successive governments have encouraged racial and ethnic harmony, promoted cross-cultural understanding and discouraged hatred, discrimination and violence.

Modern Canada regularly appears near (or indeed at) the top of numerous international ‘quality of life’ surveys. It has an excellent education system (with the highest tertiary education enrolment in the world) and an economy that, though certainly hit by the financial meltdown (the US is Canada’s major trading partner), remains among the strongest in the world thanks to its large natural resources – and could be among the earliest nations to break out of the recession.

So, is it any wonder that thousands of people from around the world wish to settle in Canada? Around 260,000 people took an oath of citizenship in 2006; could you soon be joining them?

Here are 30 useful things to know about Canada.

ECONOMY

Canada is the ninth-biggest economy in the world, the world’s eighth-biggest trader, and in the top five when it comes to the production of natural gas and metals including copper, zinc, aluminium, nickel and gold.

Though its economy is – typical of any developed nation – dominated by the Service Industries, Canada continues to have a relatively large primary sector, which is particularly important in some provinces and territories. For example, forestry/logging dominates British Columbia’s economy, while the oil industries overshadows Alberta and Newfoundland & Labrador.

Canada is one of the few developed nations that is a net exporter of energy, thanks to the large oil and gas resources centred in Alberta and the Northern Territories and relatively inexpensive hydroelectric networks in British Columbia, Quebec and elsewhere.

Much of Canadian manufacturing (particularly the car industry located largely in southern Ontario) consists of branch plants of US firms, which has raised real concerns about the commitment of US and other foreign firms to jobs in Canada.

According to The Economist, Canada’s economy remains fundamentally strong, but is currently experiencing its worst recession since the 1930s – and is unlikely to exit this until 2011, thanks to a sluggish US economy and other contracted export markets.

Canada’s trade balance has been pushed into deficit for the first time since the 1970s, thanks in part to falling prices for its natural resources – prices for these are expected to strengthen from 2010.

Unemployment is currently at 8.4% (May 2009), the highest figure in 11 years, compared to the UK’s 7.2% (June 2009).

Inflation is currently at 0.1%, compared with the UK’s 2.2% (both May 2009).

House prices dropped by 1.44% during the first quarter of 2009 (source: Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) with expectations of recovery not until late 2009/2010. In the UK, the equivalent figure saw a drop of 4.54% (source: Nationwide)

Canadian banks managed to avoid the worst of the financial collapse that dominated the US and UK economies during 2008.

LIVING

New Canadians are expected to be able to speak English or French; to obey the law and  abide by Canadian values and to understand and respect the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – both of which forbid discrimination based on ethnic origin, race, religion, gender, age or disability.

Canada’s universal health care system is publicly funded through provincial/territorial taxation. It does not cover glasses or most dental care, though the exact coverage differs between individual provinces and territories. As medical care isn’t automatically covered outside your own province/territory; private health insurance may be required even when travelling within Canada. More: www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Ethnically diverse – more than half of the population do not count English as their first language – the west coast city of Vancouver is, according to Forbes, the 10th cleanest city in the world and is consistently ranked among the top three of the world’s most liveable cities.

Forbes lists Toronto among the world’s top 10 most economically powerful cities. It’s Canada’s financial capital and also boasts North America’s third-largest concentration of private IT companies.

Automatic taxation in Canada can deduct between 25% and 35% of your income (depending on where you live), contributing to income tax, Canadian/provincial pension plans, employment insurance and any other agreed deductions. You can expect to pay additional tax on goods and services; usually 5% to the federal government and an additional provincial sales tax of between 7%-10% — although Alberta, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and the Yukon do not have a provincial/territorial sales tax.

House prices in Canada are relatively low – the Canadian average is CA$274,000 (£146,000) – when compared with other western countries and, in common with most developed countries, have been dropping. Prices are naturally highest in the main cities, and the relatively mild climate of the west coast. In contrast, you can pick up a bargain in the likes of Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, assuming you can withstand the severe winter weather and general remoteness.

The cost of living is less than in the UK, although this is balanced by generally lower salaries compared to those available in the US, UK and Northern Europe.  Petrol costs are certainly lower, despite a rollercoaster of price rises and falls during 2008.

If you intend to work or run a business in Quebec, it’s advisable that you’re able to speak French fluently, as there is a degree of hostility to English speakers in the province.

Violent crime rates are significantly lower in Canada than in the US, although disparities in other crimes (for example, vehicle theft was 22% in Canada in 2006) mean that the gap between the two countries is less than the homicide rate might suggest.

Canada has an excellent choice of public, independent and private schools with high standards across the country. Fees for studying at college or university vary across the provinces, but most courses are partly subsidised through taxation.

THE BASICS

Canada is the second-largest country in the world after the Russian Federation. At 9,093,507km2 it’s 37 times the size of the UK, but has only slightly more than half the UK’s population (33 million).

Nearly 90% of Canadians live within 200 km of the US border, meaning the country contains vast expanses of wilderness to the north. Almost a third of Canadians live in the country’s three largest cities: Toronto in Ontario (5.1 million); Montreal in Quebec (3.6 million); and Vancouver in British Columbia (2.1 million).

Canada’s official capital – a selection made, originally, by Queen Victoria – is Ottawa in Ontario (812,000).

Canada is a federation of 10 provinces and three territories. The 10 provinces are British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (Western Canada); Quebec and Ontario (Central Canada); and New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador (Atlantic Canada). The three territories are Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut (Northern Canada).

Unlike the UK, Canada’s provinces and territories enjoy considerable economic and political autonomy from the national government; because they are responsible for areas including healthcare, education and welfare, the provinces uniquely collect more tax revenue than the national federal government.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy and federal state with a democratically elected parliament; formerly a Dominion of the British Empire, it officially became a country in 1982.

Canada’s two official languages are English and French; the latter is spoken by more than nine million Canadians.

The country has six time zones; east coast Newfoundland & Labrador is three and a half hours behind Greenwich Mean Time; west-coast Vancouver is eight hours behind GMT.

Popular sports in Canada include ice hockey, swimming, cross-country and alpine skiing, baseball, tennis, basketball, soccer and golf. The biggest spectator sports are ice hockey and Canadian Football.

Canada is home to slightly more women than men, especially in the cities. Men tend to outnumber women in rural areas.

EMIGRATING TO CANADA

You can follow four main routes to settle permanently in Canada; three national programmes covering skilled workers, family and business or a separate initiative run by Canada’s provincial governments. Success in all depends on gaining a sufficiently high score on a points system, which you can find more about from the Canadian High Commission Immigration Section (020 7258 6699, www.canada.org.uk) in London, or specialist commercial agencies such as Four Corners Emigration (0845 841 9453, www.fourcorners.net) and Migration Expert (020 7494 6464, www.migrationexpert.com). Agencies are useful as they can offer self-assessment tests which giving you a realistic view of your chances of success.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

Canadian driving licences are issued by each Province and Territory. If you’re moving to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, or Newfoundland & Labrador (and can prove you’ve had at least two years’ safe driving experience in the UK), you’ll be able to exchange your DVLA-issued licence for its Canadian equivalent*. Elsewhere, to get a Canadian licence, you will need to sit the relevant written and practical road test to earn – which in some Provinces can take up to two years. UK licences will be accepted for any period between 30 days and six months after arrival, depending on location.

*UK licences issued in Northern Ireland are not currently included in these arrangements.

(Information: Foreign & Commonwealth Office)

Why down under comes on top

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In the first on an ongoing series, we offer you a sitrep about resettlement around the world, starting with one of the most popular destinations for ex-pats – Australia!

Down Under has long attracted those Brits looking for a good life in the sun, a nation that – thanks to its strong British history (and indeed a former bias to immigrants from “the old country”) – will feel familiar, and yet comes with career and lifestyle opportunities lacking in a UK gripped by recession, drizzle and the latest series of Britain’s Got Talent.

Australia has long been known as the lucky country, thanks in part to its vast mineral resourses – from iron ore and uranium to gold, silver and zinc – which made many a person’s fortune. Today, the country still has much to offer those willing to work hard and enjoy the benefits. It may be on the other side of the planet, but if you’re looking to put down roots somewhere that’s warm, vibrant and full of potential, then Australia could be the new home you’re looking for.

Here are 50 things you should know about Australia.

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ECONOMY

  • Australia has the 14th largest economy in the world.
  • The country is the world’s largest exporter of commodities including coal, sheep, wool, lead, aluminium, refined zinc ores, diamonds and mineral. Other exports include veal, beef, lamb and mutton, sugar, cereals, nickel and iron ore.
  • Australia’s main imports are machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machinery, and telecommunications.
  • Although the agricultural and mining sectors are small (generating less than 5% of Australian GDP), they contribute approximately 65% of the country’s exports.
  • Australia’s main markets are Japan (which buys one fifth of the country’s output), China, South Korea, the US, New Zealand and India. Oh, and the UK, of course.
  • Almost two decades of economic expansion have been stopped by the global recession. Though its resource-based economy has been hit hard by a decline in commodity prices, Australia is said to have fared better so far than other nations.
  • However, critics say Australia has lived beyond its means for a decade, importing more than it exports – leading to a current budget deficit equalling 6.2% of GDP (compared with UK’s 5.4%).
  • Household debt, meantime, has reached 177% of GDP.
  • Nevertheless, the Reserve Bank of Australia believes the country is likely to recover from recession in 2010, thanks to improvements in China’s economy, a rise in commodity prices and the absence of a subprime lending legacy.
  • Taxation is split between the Commonwealth, the States and Territories, and local councils.

JOBS

  • To settle and work in Australia, you must be less than 45 years old.
  • 75% of Australians work in the services sector (including tourism, education and financial services); 21.1% in industry and 3.6% in agriculture.
  • You have a better chance of gaining a work visa if you have at least a year’s recent experience in a profession listed on the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL), published by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship: www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/skilled-occupations/occupations-in-demand.htm.
  • MODL lists professions under four categories: managers, such as childcare coordinators and engineering managers; professionals, including IT specialists, dentists and registered nurses and midwives; associate professionals, such as chefs and dental technicians; and trades persons, including bakers, joiners, plumbers and welders.
  • Unemployment is currently running at 5.7% in Australia, compared with the UK’s 6.8%.
  • Some experts are concerned skilled migrants will take jobs from existing local workers, contributing to an extra 300,000 jobless Australians by 2010.
  • According to new research by Tourism Australia, one in four Australian employees are not taking their entitled annual leave thanks to workload concerns, lack of cover and difficulties scheduling holidays. Between them, they have accumulated 123 million days leave – or the equivalent of AU$33.3 billion in wages!
  • There are numerous employment websites aimed at people looking for work Down Under, but the most official is Australian Jobsearch, which is run by the Australian Government: http://jobsearch.gov.au.
  • Many employers will attend the Australia Needs Skills expo in London, 27-29 June 2009. For more information, and to register for an invite, visit http://skillexpo.nga.net.au.
  • There are more than 71,400 businesses following business franchise systems, employing around 413,500 people. For more information check out the Franchise Council of Australia (www.franchise.org.au).

GEOGRAPHY & HISTORY

  • At 7,686,850km2 (2,967,909 miles2), Australia is the sixth-largest nation in the world – after Russia, Canada, China, the US and Brazil.
  • Almost nine in 10 of Australia’s 21,263,000 people live in urban areas; the heaviest settlement is along the eastern seaboard and in the south-east corner of the continent.
  • The Commonwealth of Australia is made up of six states and two territories.
  • The largest State is Western Australia; roughly the size of Western Europe, it has a population slightly less than the West Midlands!
  • The official capital is the purpose-built city of Canberra, although the two largest cities are Sydney and Melbourne.
  • Almost three-quarters of Australia cannot support agriculture in any form.
  • The largest lake in Australia is Lake Eyre – at 9,500km2, it’s roughly six times the size of Greater London.
  • In 1770 Captain James Cook claimed the east coast of Australia for the British Crown.
  • In total, some 160,000 Britons were transported to Australia as convicts between 1788 and 1868.
  • Australia currently has nine parliaments; the Commonwealth Parliament in Canbera, six State Parliaments and two Territory Parliaments – all but the State Parliament of Western Australia are currently controlled by the Australian Labor Party.

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LIVING

  • Sport is massive in Australia; an estimated 6.5 million people – almost a third of the population – are registered with local, regional or state-level sports organisations and clubs.
  • Australians enjoy a relaxed outdoor lifestyle, thanks to plentiful back yards, public parks and open spaces.
  • Life expectancy is 81.6 years (79.25 for males, 84.14 for females), compared with 79 years in the UK (76.5 for males, 81.6 for females).
  • According to the 2001 Census, 92% of Australians are white; Asians make up 7%, with Aboriginal peoples and other ethnic minorities accounting for the rest.
  • The first language of 78.5% of Australians is English; about 5.4% speak Chinese, Italian or Greek.
  • Nearly one in four Australians were born overseas (compared with 6% of people in the UK).
  • Permanent residence in Australia is granted under various classes of visas within four main “streams”: Skills, Family, Business and Humanitarian.
  • The Australian Dollar (AU$) is worth about 50p; bank notes are made out of plastic to make them durable and difficult to counterfeit.
  • Australian cities regularly feature in the top ten of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Livability survey.
  • Though you will need plug adaptors, the voltage for electrical appliances is the same as in the UK, so you take and use current electrical equipment.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Australia’s name derives from the Latin term “terra australis incognita” – meaning “unknown southern land”.
  • Between 1838 and 1902 it was illegal to swim at public beaches during the day.
  • Australia was the second country to give women the vote.
  • In 1933, two thirds of people in Western Australia voted for independence from the rest of Australia, but it didn’t happen.
  • Australia Day (26 January) is the anniversary of the first convict-carrying ships arriving in Sydney.
  • In 2007, it was estimated that almost 22% of living Australians (almost one in four) had a convict ancestor.
  • Highly venomous Box Jellyfish have killed more people than stonefish, sharks and crocodiles combined.
  • Baaa! There are 140,000 sheep in Australia.
  • Recent years have confirmed Australia’s deadliest natural hazards as hurricanes, droughts, forest fires and heatwaves.
  • According to an international survey, the average Australian drinks 7% less alcohol than the average Brit, 25% less than the average German and 35% less than the average Irish person!