Only 1 in 5 skilled migrants are employed in their area of expertise

Only 1 in 5 skilled migrants with overseas qualifications recognised for Australian employment


In Australia, only 1 in 5 skilled migrants have their overseas qualifications recognised for employment.

According to new research conducted by Australian employment services provider, MAX Solutions and not-for-profit, HOST International, 45 per cent of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) workers surveyed say they have between 5 and 20-years’ experience in their field of choice, suggesting their vital, well-established skills are not being strategically utilised. 

The report, Ready to work, which interviewed more than 400 job candidates who identify as CALD within MAX Solutions’ customer base, revealed that 68 per cent of them have waited more than a year to secure work, with more than three quarters admitting they expect to wait up to three years.

By comparison, 72 per cent of Australians from non-CALD backgrounds find work within six months of starting to seek employment.

The report identified a range of challenges CALD job seekers face, including language barriers, accessing information, advice and training to secure work, limited access to public transport and affordable housing, visa status impacting work options, and racial discrimination from employers. 

Three quarters of survey respondents said it was difficult to find the right information and support services to help them secure a job.

As a result, skilled migrants are often ineligible for a job in their field of expertise, forcing them to undertake casual and unstable employment instead.

In fact, 83 per cent of survey respondents who report working outside their chosen profession say they are working in unskilled, part-time or casual roles.

MAX Solutions representative, Darren Hooper believes Australia has approximately 350,000 skilled job vacancies across the country, many of which could potentially be filled by workers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

“These are job-ready and experienced people who are in country today and are ready and willing to work,” he said in a statement. 

“These ‘lost skills’ of Australia’s migrant workforce represent a huge opportunity for our economy and society, if we can work together to improve recognition of overseas qualifications to Australian employers and accreditation bodies, and support culturally and linguistically diverse job candidates into jobs in their field.”

Currently, more than 7.6 million migrants from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are living in Australia, with up to a third of the current population born overseas. 

HOST International’s CEO, David Keegan, notes that Australia welcomes up to 190,000 migrants each year.

“There are more than 7.6 million migrants in our nation today, and migration is expected to contribute up to $1.6 trillion to Australia’s GDP by 2050,” he said. “Frankly, we cannot afford to ignore this issue.”

“There’s also a real human cost here – short-term, casual employment often leads to inconsistent income and uncertainty for migrants and their families. Just getting a job isn’t enough – it should be secure, gainful, and in that person’s field of choice and expertise.”

“We must do more to ensure that migrants can translate their skills into long-term, secure work in Australia to create stability for themselves and their families.”

For CALD women, the pursuit of employment is even more difficult. According to the latest ABS study of women’s workforce participation, CALD women have a significantly lower rate of workforce participation compared to CALD men — 47.3 per cent compared with 69.5 per cent.

“Women from CALD backgrounds also experience limited opportunities to gain driving licences, encounter traditional cultural expectations of women as domestic caregivers, and child care and community care responsibilities that inhibit employment opportunities,” one report explained.

MAX Solutions’ latest Ready to work report makes a number of recommendations for government, employment services providers and employers, including increasing work experience programs and paid internships to CALD people, working with industry and accreditation authorities to address misunderstandings about overseas qualifications, and reducing the costs associated with local recognition of specific qualifications.

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