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Migrants need ongoing support in job hunting – study finds

8 March 20171 comment

Newly arrived migrants and refugees struggle to break into Australia’s labour market but can succeed if given adequate early support in job hunting, a new study has found.

The study which surveyed a group of newly arrived migrants and refugees studying English in Melbourne about their employment experiences found many were underemployed, had lost career status and were on low wages.

It found that although 75 per cent of respondents had overseas work experience, at the point of enrolment in the Settlement Language Pathways to Employment and Training (SLPET) classes, less than one quarter (24 per cent) had gotten a job in Australia.

Titled In Transition: employment outcomes of migrants in English language programs, the study surveyed 460 SLPET students between 2014 and 2016.

Six months after completing their courses, 60 per cent of the students were available for work. Of those, just over half (56 per cent) had a job while 44 per cent were looking for work.

Of those working, 70 per cent had casual or part-time work or work that was beneath their qualifications or experience, according to the survey by migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia.

Many reported having found work through personal or social connections but half reported that they had no support in seeking work and only a third were connected to the federal government’s jobactive program.

The study found that the students believed that confidence and proficiency in English were the most important factors in finding work.

The remaining 40 per cent of the cohort of 460 students had either gone on to further study or were caring for children.

The study’s lead author Monica O’Dwyer said that those who found jobs mostly worked on a casual basis and fewer were in permanent, fixed term or self-employment.

“There is evidence of significant underemployment amongst the SLPET clients in this study. The majority of workers (67 per cent) were in part-time work of less than 35 hours per week. Of these, 61 per cent said they would like to work more hours,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

“Half of the working respondents told us they were earning more than $20 per hour and 4 per cent said they were earning more than $30 an hour.

“But 32 per cent said they were earning less than $20 an hour. The relatively low pay rates reflect the low status occupations of many respondents.

“Adult casual workers receiving a 25 per cent casual loading would be paid more than $20 per hour under the current national minimum wage order in Australia,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

She said 345 in the study had worked prior to their migration. The main occupations they held prior to coming to Australia were as managers or professionals (48 per cent), clerical and administrative workers (15 per cent) and technicians and trade workers (11 per cent).

“In contrast, occupations for the 159 people who had found work since the SLPET course were labourers (37 per cent), sales workers (19 per cent), community and personal service workers (14 per cent) and clerical and administrative workers (14 per cent),” Ms O’Dwyer said.

“What we found was that ongoing support after the completion of English classes is very helpful in getting people into work,” she said.

“Things like job clubs, networks of people in similar occupations and post course support are really useful,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist