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Skilled migrants getting better employment outcomes

25 July 20161 comment

Increasing numbers of skilled migrants are finding work in the areas in which they have training and qualifications, new data reveals.

For decades migrants have traditionally found themselves in jobs far below their skill and qualification levels.

But now, new research shows people arriving with tertiary qualifications in the past five years are twice as likely to work in their field as those who arrived more than 15 years ago.

Almost 40 per cent of migrants who arrived after 2010 with tertiary qualifications are working in their own fields. This compares with just 20 per cent of people who arrived before 2001, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

In recent years, the federal government has increased the number of places for skilled and qualified migrants as a proportion of the overall intake.

Seven in 10 migrants who arrived after 2010 have tertiary qualifications, compared with four in 10 of those who arrived before 2001, the ABS figures show.

Sociologist Professor Andrew Jakubowicz says that Australia has always imported skills.

“We have imported skills to reduce the pressure on the under-investment in local skills creation,” Professor Jakubowicz said.

“But historically, Australia has wasted a lot of the skills of its migrants.”

Another study has showed that new migrants are finding it harder than they expect to find suitable work in Australia and low levels of English and a lack of local experience are the biggest barriers.

And the lack of support for jobseekers newly arrived to Australia can contribute to exploitation in the workplace, the study found.

The research, carried out by settlement agency AMES Australia, found job seekers with tertiary qualifications were the least satisfied with employment outcomes while those who arrived without qualifications were more likely to be satisfied.

Sixty-seven per cent of those surveyed in the study had a tertiary qualification before coming to Australia. Despite this, after four years most were working in factories, child or aged care or in customer service.

Titled ‘Finding satisfying work; The experiences of recent migrants with low level English’, the study found women experienced even greater challenges in finding work appropriate to their skills.

It found that four years after arriving in Australia, many women with tertiary qualifications and professional experience were working in jobs that did not use their skills.

The study found that even migrants who tried to upgrade their skills or have their overseas qualification recognised faced hurdles because they often had to take up unskilled work while in training.

Yet another study found Australia was missing out on the skills and experience of tens of thousands of highly qualified women who arrive as the spouses or partners of skilled migrants because they struggle to find work, new research has found.

A qualitative survey canvassing the views of 63 new migrant women arriving on a partner visa, as well as employers and service providers by settlement agency AMES Australia, found significant barriers to these women getting into employment.

The research paper, titled ‘Hidden Assets: skilled migrant women and the Australian workforce’, concluded that early intervention to help migrant women find work could help Australia harness what is a “hidden asset”.

Lead researcher Dr Lisa Thomson said migrant women were not considered in economic terms as valuable and skilled assets but rather regarded as “trailing spouses”.

“With assistance from government-funded services and input from employers via early intervention programs, these women can become job ready and available to enter the labour market, fill job vacancies and meet skill shortages,” Dr Thomson said.

Chinese migrant Jing Lin has tertiary qualifications and arrived in Australia from China on a spouse visa in 2006.

She exemplifies a common migration pathway and, like most people in the study, she is eager to contribute to Australia socially and economically through employment.

Jing Lin

Jing Lin

Jing said she took a number of jobs below her qualifications initially because she felt under pressure to help make ends meet; she experienced some less than ideal working conditions in these jobs.

Following years in this type of employment, Jing, an accountant and auditor in China, did a TAFE course aimed at getting overseas professionals into their field of work and this was successful.

“Things were hard for the first few years in Australia and I struggled to get the sort of work that gave me satisfaction and a chance to get ahead,” Jing said.

“At first I could not speak English so it was hard. But now I have a full time, permanent job working in finance for a retail chain.

“I still think I can do a lot more but at least I have a full-time secure position, I want to do further study and get into more senior roles in the future,” Jing said.