Migraines for migrants

New report shows skilled migrants are struggling to find work in Australia (Image Source: SBS News)

By Viki Ntafillis | @viki_ntaf

In a recently-released paper, President of the Australian Population Research Institute Dr Bob Birrell has revealed how migrants are not benefitting from having higher qualifications in Australia.

From 2011 to 2016, 84.4 per cent of migrants aged 25-34 were from Non-English-Speaking-Countries (NESC).

However, only 24 per cent of those from NESC countries found employment in their studied fields, while 50 per cent of Main-English-Speaking-Country (MESC) migrants and 58 per cent of Australian-born students were employed.

Ioanna Lappa (45), who emigrated from Greece to Adelaide in 2013, has been impacted by this issue and whole-heartedly supports the report’s findings.

In Greece, Ms Lappa studied at the Athenian Centre of Journalism and Communication and worked as a journalist, executive assistant and retail store owner.

Despite her previous experience, she said Australian employers were “scared” and unwilling to hire recent arrivals.

“Straight away I wanted to be equal [with Australians], but they didn’t trust me,” Ms Lappa said.

“So I had to find something I could study and get employed in quickly.”

The same year she emigrated, Ms Lappa became a qualified aged carer and primary school Greek teacher.

Although she found a teaching role straight away, she also had to work as a cleaner for eight months before finding a carer position.

“I would never have done that in Greece. I did it for the experience employers were asking for,” Ms Lappa said.

“It’s hard for all migrants. We have all the same problems. They don’t give us jobs easily and we can’t get the jobs we have experience in easily.”

According to Dr Birrell, a number of factors contribute to this struggle.

“[English speaking migrants and Australian-born applicants] have an enormous advantage because of their English language proficiency and [for the Australian-born], their cultural awareness and networking connections,” Dr Birrell said.

Dr Birrell also found that many professions declared “oversupplied” by the Department of Employment remained on their Medium and Long-term Strategic Skill List.

This, in turn, meant that Skill Stream, the program using this list to issue visas to migrants with skills considered “scarce”, was completely ineffective.

Some of these professions include accountants, auditors, engineers and many positions in health.

Australia’s saturated job market also does not make the job hunt any easier for migrants.

Native students are receiving more encouragement from “governments, educational authorities and innovation advocates” to enter university, with the recent deregulation of enrolments allowing more Australians to enter the university program of their choice.

As a result, by 2017, 38.5 per cent of Australian-born citizens aged 25-29 and 40.3 per cent of those aged 30-34 had tertiary qualifications.

This means even Australian graduates are struggling to find jobs, according to Graduate Destination Surveys.

Their latest survey found that of those graduating in 2016 and seeking a job in 2017, only 53.5 per cent were employed as professionals and 6.2 per cent as managers.

Engineering graduates were the luckiest in finding professional employment, with 68.3 per cent successful, while the number was 65.4 per cent for computing, 47.7 per cent for business and management, and 40.8 per cent for science and mathematics.

“To the extent that the current program does deliver any scarce skills, this is an accidental rather than a planned outcome,” Mr Birrell said.

Therefore, to help migrants find work, he said the government must change its migration policy so that it focuses on current skill shortages, instead of those that may be needed in the future.

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