Promoting the benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace
Cultural and linguistically diverse (CALD) people suffer disproportionally when attempting to seek employment in the face of negative stereotypes and racist perceptions, according to a new report.
The report, ‘Getting business booming: report on the inquiry into barriers for small business employment,’ examines reasons behind existing disadvantages and momentous hurdles for CALD people attempting to enter the Australian workforce.
CALD people are more likely to be enrolled in full or part time schooling but are less likely to be employed into the workforce than their Australian counter-parts, according to the CALD Youth Census Report.
Cultural and language barriers, unrecognised overseas qualifications, bigoted labels and typecasting, and a lack of Australian work experience are identified as significant inhibitors for CALD people seeking employment in Australia.
The report puts forward recommendations for how businesses and organisations can take effective and positive steps to put a stop to the prejudiced culture existing within the Australian workforce, in order to reflect Australia’s multicultural society.
Released by the Federal House of Representatives Committee on Education and Employment, the report contends the “most obvious obstacle to employment for people of CALD background is the language barrier,” as “without adequate English skills, jobs requiring customer contact are difficult to obtain [and] many jobs require an ability to read signage and safety warnings.”
“People from CALD backgrounds are among the most vulnerable in the workplace and tend to be concentrated in sectors of the job market which creates potential for exploitation,” the Committee was told by The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA).
This hindrance is compounded by employer bias against job seekers from a CALD background, according to the report, whether conscious or unconscious.
Many people from CALD backgrounds are “subject to stereotyping and either deliberate or unintentional discrimination while job seeking.”
“It noted that this was often due to false perceptions of a lack of understanding, skill or intelligence by the job seeker.”
This created a culture of escalating negative stereotypes, as well as potentially racist behaviour in hiring practices and in the workplace, the inquiry was told.
The report emphasised that this discrimination can be addressed by visiting the website business.gov.au, which provides links to State and Territory legislation and information from the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Some benefits of recruiting a person from a CALD background for small business include understanding Australia’s multicultural consumers, providing better customer service by using their language and cultural skills, providing access to new market segments and networks and expanding internationally to overseas markets.”
“32% of NSW small business operators were born overseas. Of this cohort, 17.2% came from North East Asia, 10.7% came from North Africa and the Middle East, another 10.7% from South-East Asia and 36.4% from Europe,” projected the New South Wales Small Business Commissioner.
Another problem affecting the employment of people from CALD backgrounds, as was the limited recognition of skills, the inquiry was told.
“Almost half of recent permanent immigrant and temporary residents had obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification prior to arrival in Australia. A substantial proportion, which is about 30% of recent immigrants and 25% of temporary residents, had obtained a certificate diploma or higher qualification after arrival,” one submission claimed.
Australia has made progress towards the further recognition of overseas qualifications, however the disjointed nature of Australia’s professional accreditation bodies hinders this process, according to the report.
People from CALD backgrounds are often employed in jobs for which they are over-skilled or remain unemployed despite previous valuable qualifications, the report found.
Despite the disadvantages, various effective and optimistic measures are being promoted and adopted around Australia, in order to actively work towards a more inclusive workforce.
“Employers who tap into the wealth of life experience provided by employees from a CALD background, will, in the Committee’s view, be well rewarded,” according to the report. This will further allow Australia to be a proud multicultural society.
AMES Australia Staff Writer