In industry, when someone is hired, it's typical for the employer to pay for the flight costs of the new employee. But when grad students and postdocs are moving to different countries, typically they have to pay with their own money. Why is this the norm in academia and not industry?
The premise of the question is incorrect. Both industry and academia use a variety of strategies for funding moving expenses. The strategies are largely based on niche economic conditions.
In my experience, moving expenses are provided for many postdoc positions, but my experience is not a random sample. The dollar amount varied greatly.
Positions that are easy to fill usually do not come with moving expenses.
As others have said, practices vary considerably. A couple of factors may be at play when academia doesn't pay relocation costs:
- Salaries for grad students and postdocs are often derived from grant funding. Typically, funding organisations impose detailed rules about what can, and cannot, be paid for using their money. It may not be possible to pay for relocation from grant funds. Alternatively it may be allowed, but only if the PI thought to include it in the budget when they applied for funding.
- Typically, national tax authorities impose strict rules on relocation payments (to avoid them being used as a back-door to paying 'golden handshakes'). Academic institutions tend to be risk-averse and may decide to err on the side of caution here.
Cynically, a third factor may be: academic hiring is a buyer's market. Most applicants for PhDs and postdocs aren't negotiating from a position of strength, and won't see a lack of relocation expenses as a dealbreaker. That being the case, why not spend the money on upgrading the oak panelling in the Dean's office?