Migrant Unemployment Higher Than Reported
11 November 2013 at 9:25 am
Official unemployment figures do not reflect the true extent of joblessness among emerging communities, leading migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Chief Executive Officer Cath Scarth has told a conference.
Scarth, speaking at the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) 2013 Conference on the Gold Coast, said the effective unemployment rate among some communities from non-English speaking backgrounds in Australia could be as high as 20 per cent.
Scarth said Australia’s unemployment rate was currently at 5.6 per cent and for Australians born in the Middle East or North Africa, the rate was 9.2 per cent and for people from sub-Saharan Africa it was 7.5 per cent.
“Because being employed is now defined as working an hour a week, the effective unemployment rate is higher than it appears,” Scarth said.
“The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates unemployment at 13 per cent when ‘underemployed’ and ‘discouraged’ job seekers are included,” she said.
Ms Scarth said that if this differential – 5.6 per cent versus 13 per cent – was transposed to some emerging communities, the effective unemployment rate could be as high as 20 per cent.
At the conference, Scarth called for the creation of a national program to help migrants and refugees with skills find work quickly.
“The program could be modelled along the lines of the SPMP program operated successfully by AMES,” she said.
“This is a four-week intensive program that addresses some of the barriers facing skilled migrants and refugees. It develops understanding of the Australian job market and workplace culture.”
She also called on more employers to make available work experience opportunities, workplace mentors and jobs for new arrivals.
“Over the next decade I’d like to no longer be advocating for this as employers will have the evidence and the practical experience to know the value of including migrants and refugees in their workforces,” Scarth said.
She said the barriers to finding work for new arrivals to Australia included: poor English language skills; lack of local labour market knowledge; lack of local work experience; and, diminishing confidence over time.
Ms Scarth said partnerships with employers also offered a solution to reducing unemployment among new arrivals to Australia.
“For example, the ‘Job Ready Pilot Program’ – a partnership between hospitality group Accor, my organisation AMES, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and the former Department of Immigration and Citizenship – is succeeding in getting newly arrived refugees and migrants into work experience opportunities and jobs,” Scarth said.
“I’d like to see this model replicated and implemented on a large scale and embedded in many other workplaces to give many, many more people an initial opportunity.”