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Media Release: Unemployment a hidden issue for CALD communities

7 November 20131 comment

The effective unemployment rate among some communities from non-English speaking backgrounds in Australia could be as high as 20%, according to leading migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES.

AMES CEO Cath Scarth said official unemployment figures did not reflect the true extent of joblessness among emerging communities speaking today to the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) 2013 Conference on the Gold Coast.

Ms Scarth said Australia’s unemployment rate was currently at 5.6%. She said that for Australians born in the Middle East or North Africa, the rate was 9.2% and for people from sub-Saharan Africa it was 7.5%.

“Because being employed is now defined as working an hour a week, the effective unemployment rate is higher than it appears,” Ms Scarth said.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates unemployment at 13% when ‘underemployed’ and ‘discouraged’ job seekers are included,” she said.

Ms Scarth said that if this differential – 5.6% versus 13% – was transposed to some emerging communities, the effective unemployment rate could be as high as 20%.

In addressing the 2013 FECCA Conference, Ms Scarth called for the creation of a national program to help migrants and refugees with skills find work quickly.

“The program could be modelled along the lines of the SPMP program operated successfully by AMES,” she said.

“This is a four-week intensive program that addresses some of the barriers facing skilled migrants and refugees. It develops understanding of the Australian job market and workplace culture,” Ms Scarth said.

She also called on more employers to make available work experience opportunities, workplace mentors and jobs for new arrivals.

“Over the next decade I’d like to no longer be advocating for this as employers will have the evidence and the practical experience to know the value of including migrants and refugees in their workforces,” Ms Scarth said.

She said the barriers to finding work for new arrivals to Australia included: poor English language skills; lack of local labour market knowledge; lack of local work experience; and, diminishing confidence over time.

Ms Scarth said partnerships with employers also offered a solution to reducing unemployment among new arrivals to Australia.

“For example, the ‘Job Ready Pilot Program’ – a partnership between hospitality group Accor, my organisation AMES, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and the former Department of Immigration and Citizenship – is succeeding in getting newly arrived refugees and migrants into work experience opportunities and jobs,” Ms Scarth said.

“I’d like to see this model replicated and implemented on a large scale and embedded in many other workplaces to give many, many more people an initial opportunity,” she said.

About AMES

AMES is the leading provider of humanitarian settlement, education, training and employment services to refugees, asylum seekers and newly arrived migrants in Victoria.

A statutory authority of the Victorian Government, the organisation manages a range of federal and state government contracts including Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS), the Adult Migrant English program (AMEP) General Services and Distance Learning programs; and Job Services Australia (JSA).

The four economic and social determinants of Health and Wellbeing, Education, Employment and Safety and Security are what AMES focuses on to deliver its vision of “full participation for all in a cohesive and diverse society”.

For images, interviews and more information please contact AMES Media Advisor, Laurie Nowell at or 9938 4031 or 0498 196 500.