More refugees finding jobs
More refugee migrants are finding work in Australia, but many still face barriers to getting a job, according to a new nationwide study.
The settlement experiences of around 2,400 humanitarian migrants have been tracked, with nearly a fifth finding employment in their first 18 months after arrival.
The research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) shows employment numbers have improved from just over seven per cent during their first six months in Australia.
Men were more than five times more likely to gain employment than women, with 28 per cent of them having found work within the first year and a half, according to the report titled: ‘Building a New Life in Australia’.
The Institute’s Director, Anne Hollonds said that up to 18 months after their arrival in Australia, migrants’ employment prospects had gradually improved.
“Fifteen to 18 months after their arrival, 18 per cent of the humanitarian migrants had progressed into employment, up from 7.2 per cent when they had been here for 3-6 months,” Ms Hollonds said.
“The employment rate for men was higher than for women, with 28.5 per cent of male humanitarian migrants in work 15-18 months after arrival, compared to 4.9 per cent of women in the same time period.
“This is a significant employment boost for these migrant families in which men tend to be the primary breadwinners while women have traditionally focused on caring for children,” she said.
However, the report says some still face an uphill battle to find work.
AIFS associate Professor Ben Edwards said many refugee migrants were held back from finding work because of a lack of affordable housing, their ability to speak English and mental health issues.
“Migrants often had skills in their home country which were not identified or utilised in Australia and programs needed to be developed to prevent them from slipping down the employment ladder,” Prof. Edwards said.
“The findings highlight the need to target employment services effectively to help maximise the skills of migrants building a life in Australia,” he said.
Chief Executive of settlement agency AMES Australia Cath Scarth said getting work was a critical factor in the successful settlement of refugees.
“If there is one thing that we at AMES have learned in our more than 50 years of helping refugees and migrants settle in Australia, it’s that finding work is the single most important factor in successful settlement,” Ms Scarth said.
“Work is not just about a pay cheque, it is a source of pride, self-reliance, improved health and sense of self-worth. It gives structure and meaning to people’s lives and it is the fabric on which our society is built.
“Aside from a weekly wage, work gives people a sense of engagement and belonging. This is especially import for people who have come to Australia to escape trauma, torture or conflict,” she said.
‘‘Most of the refugees we see as clients are incredibly resilient and resourceful and it comes as no surprise that more of them are finding jobs. We are also seeing many of them are striking out to start their own businesses’’.
Ms Scarth said research showed that early support in finding a job for new arrivals in Australia capitalises on their inherent motivation to support themselves through work and can circumvent long term welfare dependence.
“In our experience, people who have had the courage and determination to get themselves out of harm’s way and make their way to Australia – often via a perilous boat journey – are almost always driven to succeed, contribute and establish meaningful lives,” she said.
Refugee Council of Australia spokesman Tim O’Connor said while several social and economic barriers remained, he believed there had been a shift in attitude towards refugees and their capacity to work.
“Anyone who has lived through a refugee experience is incredibly resilient and those skills certainly translate to the workplace,” he said.
Syrian refugee George Hammed says finding work was important to him when he first arrived in Australia.
“It was necessary for me to support my family and also when I am working I feel good about myself,” George said.
“I don’t want to take money from the government. I want to work and I want to contribute to this country because it has given me and my family a safe place to live,” said George who works as a hairdresser and in hospitality.
AMES Australia Staff Writer