Layoffs and empty streets as Australia's boom towns go bust

Thu Mar 5, 2015 11:30pm EST
 
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By Rebekah Kebede

PERTH (Reuters) - When Probo Junio got a visa to work in Australia, he thought he had won a ticket to the good life.

In 2013, the 45-year-old boilermaker left his hometown of Cebu in the Philippines, where he was getting paid about $10 a day, to work in Karratha in Western Australia for $30 an hour. Enough to support his relatives and build a new life Down Under.

What Junio didn't expect was that Australia's booming resources industry would go bust less than two years later, taking his job, and leaving him just 60 days to find work or go home.

"It's very difficult because most of the companies don't want 457 visa holders," he said, referring to temporary permits for skilled workers.

Across the country, people like Junio are falling victim to downsizing. Jobs, once plentiful and well paid, are scarce. Real estate prices in boom towns are sinking and even the notoriously high coffee prices in mining capital Perth have leveled off at under $4.

Prices of iron ore and coal, the country's two biggest export earners, have plunged during the last two years amid falling demand from China, in the wake of its economic slowdown.

Just a few years ago, foreign workers were flooding into Australia, lured by huge pay as the resources industry scrambled to fill positions. Truck driving and cooking jobs offering $100,000 a year made headlines abroad.

But those workers, like Junio, are now hard-pressed to find work, especially if they are on temporary visas. Even permanent residents have to take lower pay.   Continued...

 
A man walks past a vacant block next to apartment buildings in the Western Australian capital city of Perth March 5, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray