Many With Different Visas, Different Look Struggle For Work

Many people on Independent Skill and other special-category visas are facing significant difficulties finding work in their areas of qualification — or work at all.

That is one of the findings in the Scanlon Foundation report “Australians Today” that looks closely at social cohesion in the country.

One respondent in the survey of 10,000 people says she could not establish herself in her profession and is now employed in an agency working with immigrants.

“When you go to Vodafone to have a plan, they ask you (for) an address. You don’t have an address. When you go to rent a property, they ask you for rent history, but you don’t have any. They ask you for payslip, you don’t have any job. You apply for jobs, but they won’t give you any job because you don’t have local experience, you don’t have the local degree.”

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The report’s lead author, Monash University professor Andrew Markus, says the report highlights problems within certain visa categories when migrants first arrive, and sometimes beyond.

“The ones in our survey who are most successful with regard to employment are the 457 visa holders who have jobs arranged for them prior to arrival as the terms of their admission. Those who come from New Zealand on Special Category Visas also look to be doing well in the labour market. Humanitarian entrants, asylum seekers — it’s not going to surprise people, the finding is that they are doing much less well.”

Professor Markus says skilled migrants, too, find it difficult.

“People who come as skilled migrants, who’ve passed the points test, gained admission into Australia, but having come independently without any jobs lined up, many of them report that it is very difficult to break into the job market. The requirement that they submit applications online doesn’t necessarily work well for them. There’s a sense maybe that jobs are being filtered in such a way that, you know, if you’re identifiably of immigrant background, you’ve got less chance of actually being called up for an interview.”

This focus-group participant explained her Muslim friend’s experience.

“One of my friends, his name is Mohammed — like, he’s obviously Lebanese. Because his name was Mohammed, he didn’t get a job on (the basis of) his resume, but, when he changed his name to Michael, he was called for an interview. As you can see, he’s stereotyped straightaway.”

Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Tim Soutphommasane, says employment discrimination is often apparent in how people treat different names.

“We know from research that, if you have an Anglo-Celtic or Anglo-Saxon name, then you’re more likely to be invited to interview when you apply for a job, when compared to having an Asian or a Middle Eastern name. And this reflects how unconscious bias takes place, or is expressed, in employment settings. People may not always be conscious of their biases, but it can result in discrimination against people who don’t have Anglo-Celtic or Anglo-Saxon names.”

The first South Sudanese man working as a real-estate agent made the point in a different way in one of the focus groups.

“They see a dark-skinned guy working in such a job, such a profession, it’s a surprise, it’s different. If I was in America, it’s a norm, but here it’s different. It’s like, ‘Oh, you people do these type of jobs?’ I don’t take it as racial or anything, but it is still a taboo.”

Many who arrived in Australia on humanitarian visas say they have experienced problems of economic integration.

Just 36 per cent indicated they were employed, while 20 per cent were looking for work and the remaining 44 per cent were not in the workforce.

Yet, most indicate a positive attitude to life in Australia and high levels of identification with the country.

Asked if they are satisfied with their lives, over 80 per cent indicated they were, and only 5 per cent said they were dissatisfied.

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Dr Soutphommasane says the survey provides valuable research and clearly shows work on Australian multiculturalism is not complete.

“We’ve had plenty of anecdotal experience about discrimination, particularly in the workplace and in our neighbourhoods, but having data of this kind ensures that there’s solid statistical information and evidence that will be immensely valuable to policymakers and to anyone with an interest in immigration and integration.”

Andrew Markus says, despite many issues raised in the survey, Australia remains a good country for immigrants.

He says that view is supported by international country rankings.

“If we’re going to just pick out one positive, it would be there’s a wide measure of agreement that Australia is a good country for immigrants, good country for the native-born. You know, if it wasn’t actually such a good country, there wouldn’t be so many people trying to migrate to Australia.”

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