Australia’s mineral-rich environment gave rise to waves of emigrants arriving to work periodic gold rushes, a pattern that began in 1851 and continues to this day. Emigrants from economically depressed countries have always found a way to arrive, bag in hand, despite the country’s increasingly strict visa and immigration rules. The persistent and global dream of being able to pan a fortune out of a riverbed and gain economic security inspires emigrants to risk all to be a part of an Australian gold rush. Greece is one of the modern countries that has caught the recent gold fever, although the gold emigrants are seeking, isn’t always panned out of a river.
Entrepreneurs and investors have a perception of Australia’s mining, technology, and manufacturing industries as being resistant to the global recession that began in the mid-2000s. The strength of the mining industry and the presence of stable and newly discovered mineral resources have attracted low-wage workers and investors alike. The Australian economy has experienced steady job growth and held its currency value in the midst of a crisis that damaged many a nation’s security. From 2004 to 2010, economic reports indicated an annual growth of over 200,000 jobs, helping to keep unemployment at a low 5%. Strong quarterly results across industries reassured investors and business partners alike that this economy was rock steady in a world flooded by ups and downs.
The rise in Greek emigrants seeking to be a part of this growing economy was a direct result of the sharp fall of their own and the ensuing austerity measures implemented. With very little sign of the Greek economy improving in the near future, many see emigration as a viable decision. Influenced not only by the strength of the economy and high employment rate but because by the strong Hellenic history and presence in the culture, emigration to to this continent remains an ideal choice. There are few other places in the world Greeks can go where culture shock will be a minimal consideration.
In recent years, however, there has appeared a growing dark side to the gold rush. The boom, in a time when so many other economies suffered, has meant that outsourcing mining and manufacturing plus importing goods has become cheaper than producing them natively. In 2011, the number of new jobs created in a year fell to an unprecedented 75,000. The cost of refining native resources has risen leading many Australian industries to replace mining and manufacturing with importing. This has meant that businesses while becoming increasingly wealthy, have downsized operations. For an outside investor, the laws regulating overseas commerce may make it more expensive to invest in an Australian company that is importing from the investor’s homeland than to seek to become involved with exporting goods to the land down under.
For low-wage emigrants, seeing the dark side of the dream is difficult. For Greeks who have little opportunity at home and a culturally welcoming environment abroad, it is hard to see that the Australian gold rush they are following may have become one made of fool’s gold.