Migrant and refugee workers 'left behind' on job employment

'Language barrier' reportedly a main issue for overseas job seekers

Migrant and refugee workers 'left behind' on job employment

Despite Australia’s record low unemployment rate for the past few months, some groups are still left behind struggling in the job market.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), its June data revealed that 23.5% of Australia’s unemployed population came from areas where English is not the primary language, the SBS News reported.

The report also said that “language barriers, lack of Australian work experience, limited social networks, and issues in having skills and qualifications recognised routinely” are only some of the main challenges that job seekers experience.

As unions call for compulsory training of Australians as a condition for migrant hires, as recently reported by HRD, what kind of labour and market conditions await them?

Struggling in the job market

Tania Abdul Muti, a Palestinian who came to Australia with her family on a humanitarian visa, took five years before landing a job in the county.

“When I came to Australia, I had two kids, and it was not easy, especially because when we were in Indonesia we were not working, it was like three years on hold of our lives,” Muti told SBS News.

“It’s not easy, you need to support your resume, undertake courses, have local experience, in order for any employer to trust you’ll be a good fit … it was pretty hard at the beginning to get a chance,” she added.

Muti told SBS News that language barrier and obtaining local experience were the primary reasons she slowed down her search for work.

“I was doing courses to get ready, I was undertaking many courses, many trainings with different providers to get ready for work,” Muti told the news outlet.

“It’s hard to get accepted by employers, it’s not easy … no one will risk somebody from CALD [culturally and linguistically diverse] backgrounds or from a different culture, it’s not easy for them to trust,” she added.

Moreover, the organization Settlement Services International (SSI) Australia) said that the employment service Workforce Australia failed to issue licences in places with high caseloads of CALD and refugee job seekers in Australia, the SBS News reported.

“Southwest Sydney, which has one of the highest CALD [and] one of the highest refugee populations, and is an epicentre for humanitarian settlement in Australia, didn’t receive either a CALD or a refugee licence, yet other locations across Australia with much-reduced numbers of indicative caseload did receive licences,” Steve O’Neill, a general manager at service delivery at SSI Australia, said according to SBS News.

Migrant workers are an essential part of Australia’s labour force as the Grattan Institute’s Migrants in the Australian Workforce report showed that approximately one in three workers in Australia were born overseas, with those who arrived within the past decade making up around 10% of the nation’s labour force.

Closing barriers to employment

Following the barriers that migrant and refugee job seekers face during their job search, O’Neill said there must be a streamlined system to recognize overseas qualifications and allow migrants and refugees to work in their applicable professional sectors, the SBS News reported.

“Newly arrived people want to contribute, they want to be part of a workforce, they want to have a level of economic independence, they want to thrive and settle in the new country,” O’Neill said according to SBS News.

“We should be working much more closely with employers and industry about how we can work around recognition of overseas qualifications, how we might be able to work with professional associations and industry to ... make it a different sort of process for people to go through and certainly less costly practices,” he added.

Regarding SSI Australia’s concern over the allocation of licences, a department spokesperson told SBS News that multiple factors influenced the process.

“A number of employment regions, including those in Sydney, elicited highly competitive fields,” the spokesperson said,” the spokesperson said. “This, together with factors such as respondents’ requests for certain business shares or particular site locations, shaped the department’s final licence decisions.”

Moreover, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke recently announced a re-evaluation of the implementation of the service amidst several complaints, including migrants and refugees being overlooked.

“The Select Committee on Workforce Australia Services will inquire into and report on matters such as the extent to which services are delivered in a way that respects individuals’ diverse needs, taking evidence on best practice and making recommendations for short and longer-term reforms to improve employment services,” a spokesperson for the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations told SBS News.

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