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English speaking migrants snaring the top jobs – study

1 February 20190 comments

English-speaking migrants in Australia are more likely to become CEOs than those born here, a new study has found.

Using census data, researchers from Macquarie University’s Faculty of Business and Economics found that while Australia’s workforce is highly diverse by international standards, that isn’t the case when it comes to the highest ranking positions.

It found people were more likely to rise to the top in Australia if they were born in an English-speaking country including England, the US, Canada and South Africa – with migrants from those countries more highly represented amongst Australia’s CEO and managing directors than those born in Australia.

Meanwhile, the number of people at the top compared to non-executives is very low amongst migrants from the Philippines, Vietnam, India and China.

The researchers said this could point to discrimination when it comes to appointing and promoting workers.

Australian born people still account for the majority of the country’s top bosses – with 70 per cent of Australia’s CEOs and managing directors born in Australia – but the figure is slightly lower than the percentage of Australian-born people in the workforce.

At the4 same time, 8.1 per cent of all Australian CEOs and managing directors were born in England, which is almost double their percentage in the wider workforce (4.9 per cent).

Titled ‘The birthplaces, languages, ancestries and religions of chief executive officers and managing directors in Australia’, the study also found migrants from countries with high levels of English proficiency such as Germany and Holland were highly represented among CEOs and MDs.

While migrants from Asian countries generally had low representation at the top, people born in South Korea and Japanese speakers were an exception, said lead researcher Dr Nick Parr.

He said this might be due to Australia’s skilled migration program, which allows foreign business people to set up shop in Australia.

The study found migrants born in English-speaking countries account for a higher rate of CEOs and managing directors (16.7 per cent) than in all employed people (10.2 per cent), while migrants from non-English speaking countries experience the opposite (13.2 per cent of CEOs and managing directors compared to 16.8 per cent in the wider workforce).

However, second-generation migrants were now heavily represented in top roles, with the research finding many people of Greek and Lebanese heritage in senior roles in Australia, despite high rates of unemployment among these groups in the 1980s.

“Many migrants from southern Europe in the 1950s and 1960s were employed in manufacturing, which is a sector in which CEOs and MDs with these ancestries are concentrated,” Dr Parr said.

The study follows a survey by Australian Human Rights Commission in 2018 which found that people from Anglo-Celtic or European backgrounds accounted for 95 per cent of executives and 97 per cent of CEOs in Australia.

The research also found that of almost 50,000 CEOs and managing directors in Australia, only 19.3 per cent are female.

“The results show the percentages of migrants from English‐speaking and north‐west European countries, English, Dutch and German speakers, and people with British, Dutch or German ancestry among CEO and MDs are above the percentages of the wider national workforce these groups form,” the report said.

“In contrast, migrants from most Asian countries are less prevalent among CEO and MDs than in the wider national workforce. Second and higher order generation southern Europeans are well represented among CEO and MDs, in contrast to the first generation,” it said.

“The patterns are linked to the historical sizes and selectivity of different migration flows, and may raise equal opportunity concerns,” the report said.




Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist