Australia has its lowest unemployment rate in decades. Why do some job seekers struggle to find work?

Unemployment figures in Australia have reached record highs in recent months, but these trends are not found across all demographics.
According to June data from 23.5% of Australia’s unemployed come from areas where English is not the primary language.
Language barriers, lack of work experience in Australia, limited social networks and issues with recognition of skills and qualifications regularly pose challenges for these job seekers when seeking employment.
The jobless rate continues to fall despite rising inflation, with figures released by the ABS on Thursday showing it currently stands at 3.4%, the lowest since 1974.

Among those struggling in the job market are Tania Abdul Muti and her family, who came to Australia in 2016 in search of safety.

Tania, who is Palestinian, was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon, and then spent three years as an asylum seeker in Indonesia before coming to Australia on a humanitarian visa.
After arriving in Australia, it took him five years to find a job.
“When I came to Australia I had two children, and it wasn’t easy, especially because when we were in Indonesia we weren’t working, it was like three years of waiting in our lives,” she said.

“It’s not easy, you have to back up your CV, take courses, have local experience, so that an employer can believe that you will be a good candidate… it was quite difficult at the beginning to have a chance.”

Tania is not the only one to encounter this kind of difficulty.
The Grattan Institute looked at the role migrants play in the Australian labor market and found that around one in three workers in Australia were born overseas, with recent arrivals – considered to be those who arrived within the last decade – accounting for around 10% of the working population.
The report also found that holders of family visas work at similar rates to those born in Australia, while holders of humanitarian visas tend to fare worse.

While Tania says having a baby after arriving in Australia slowed her job search somewhat, a major factor was the language barrier and trying to gain local experience.

Tania Abdul Muti arrived in Australia with her family in 2016 on a humanitarian visa after spending three years seeking asylum in Indonesia. Source: Provided / Tania Abdul Muti

Her husband also struggled to get his qualifications recognized in Australia.

“I was taking classes to prepare, I was taking a lot of classes, a lot of training with different providers to prepare for work,” she said.
“It’s hard to get accepted by employers, it’s not easy…no one will risk someone from CALD background or from a different culture, it’s not easy for them to trust. “

“I would go to employment services and say ‘I have experience, I know how to work, just give me a chance to understand this country’, it was so stressful for me.”

What help is available for newcomers to Australia?

Workforce Australia, an employment service set up by the former government, was designed to help people access secure employment, including additional support for those who need it.

Under the program, providers are expected to provide services tailored to the needs of the individual, including interpreters, English language programs, sustained connections with counselors and psychiatric services, and pre-employment training .

Last week, Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke announced a review of the service’s implementation, following complaints about unclear communication, problems accessing services in line and neglect of migrants and refugees.
The spokesperson said there was not yet enough data to assess how many people have obtained employment with Workforce Australia.
“The Workforce Australia Services Select Committee will investigate and report on issues such as the extent to which services are provided in a way that respects the diverse needs of individuals, taking evidence on best practice and making recommendations for short-term and long-term reforms to improve employment services,” a spokesperson for the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations told SBS News.

The program also involves Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (CALD) or Refugee Licenses for Specialist Providers, designed to address the challenges and barriers that migrant and refugee jobseekers face when seeking employment in Australia.

CALD job seekers “missing”

Settlement Services International (SSI) Australia, a community organization that supports newcomers to Australia, says Workforce Australia has not issued licenses in areas with a high load of CALD jobseekers and refugees in Australia.

Steve O’Neill, managing director of service delivery at SSI Australia, said the areas most in need of specialist services were missing under the current scheme.

“Southwest Sydney, which has one of the highest CALDs [and] one of the highest refugee populations, and is an epicenter of humanitarian settlement in Australia, received neither CALD nor refugee permit, but other locations across Australia with indicative case numbers very reduced have received permits,” he said.
“The other part of the tender document that was presented was that they would issue between four and nine licenses in this area of ​​south-west Sydney. And in fact they only issued four licenses. And those four licenses were for generalist service providers.”
SSI was a candidate in the call for tenders for a license but did not obtain one.
Mr O’Neill said his concerns were not about SSI not being licensed, but about the system more broadly.

The department spokesperson told SBS News that the licensing was influenced by several factors.

“A number of employment regions, including those in Sydney, have generated highly competitive fields,” the spokesperson said.
“This, combined with factors such as respondent demands for certain corporate shares or particular site locations, shaped the department’s final licensing decisions.”

The spokesperson said generalist providers selected to operate in culturally diverse communities had successfully demonstrated their organizational ability to do so.

Barriers to employment

According to SSI Australia, migrant and refugee job seekers face unique barriers when trying to find work.

Mr O’Neill said there should be a more streamlined approach to recognizing overseas qualifications to enable migrants and refugees to practice in their relevant professional fields.

Woman sitting at a table in an office

After Tania Abdul Muti arrived in Australia, it took her five years to find a job. Source: Provided / Tania Abdul Muti

“Newcomers 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,” he said. .

“We should be working much more closely with employers and industry on how we can work around the recognition of overseas qualifications, how we might be able to work with professional associations and industry to… make it another kind of process for people to go through certainly less expensive practices.

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