Ready to work report released

Experiences of people from diverse backgrounds looking for employment

Ready to work report

New research by Australia’s largest employment services provider, MAX Solutions, and not-for-profit, HOST International, has revealed that only 1 in 5 (21%) skilled migrants in Australia have their overseas qualifications recognised for employment, despite skills shortages in critical sectors around the nation.

45% of the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) workers surveyed in Ready to work indicated they have between five- and 20-years’ experience in their field of choice, indicating that vital, well-established skills are going to waste at a time when Australia is faced with a critical skills shortage.

Commenting on the report, Diane Tran from MAX Solutions said: “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.

“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.”

Culturally and linguistically diverse people make up a significant proportion of Australia’s population and workforce; Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data show that there are more than 7.6 million migrants living in the country today and almost 30 percent of the current population was born overseas – the highest percentage in almost 130 years.

While 72% of Australians from non-CALD backgrounds find work within six months of starting to seek employment, 68% of CALD applicants have waited, or anticipate waiting, one year or more to secure work, with the vast majority (75%) admitting they expect the wait to be up to three years.

Alongside recognition of overseas qualifications and accreditations, common challenges identified in Ready to work include language barriers requiring programs to learn English, finding the right information, advice and training to secure work, limited access to public transport and affordable housing, visa types impacting work options, and discrimination by employers.

These challenges can lead to skilled migrants not being able to secure a job in their field of expertise and resorting to casual and unstable employment instead; of the survey respondents working outside their chosen profession, 83% are working in (unskilled) part-time or casual roles.

David Keegan, CEO of HOST International, said: “Currently, Australia welcomes approximately 160,000 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. 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.”

Naseer Malikzai, an Afghan migrant experienced the difficulty of finding a job in Australia firsthand. Having already worked with organisations such as the United Nations and the Australian Embassy in Afghanistan, Naseer still experienced difficulties after arriving in Australia.

“We got all possible support for our immediate settlement in Australia,” said Mr Malikzai. “The foremost key priority is to find a job as soon as possible. Despite the fact that I had good qualifications, I had a lot of concern about my job. I was unable to find the resources right away that helped me understand where to start, how to start, and how to get into the market.”

Naseer is now working as an intern for the Victorian State Government, but his experience reflects the difficulty many migrants face when seeking work. 74% of survey respondents said it was difficult to find the right information and/or support services to help them get a job – a sentiment that Naseer echoes.

Ready to work contains a number of recommendations for government, employment services providers and employers, including:

  • exploring opportunities to overcome local experience barriers by increasing work experience programs and paid internships,
  • working with industry and accreditation authorities to address misunderstandings about overseas qualifications, and
  • reduce the costs associated with local recognition of specific qualifications.

About MAX Solutions

MAX Solutions is Australia’s largest employment services provider, offering employment, health, training and humanitarian services in more than 250 locations around Australia. It is part of MAXIMUS Inc. with over 34,000 employees worldwide.

About the research

The customer survey was scripted and hosted by MAX Solutions and HOST International, surveying 442 job candidates who identify as culturally and linguistically diverse within MAX Solutions’ customer base. The survey commenced and was completed in November 2021.

MAX and HOST also express their sincere thanks to the attendees of the series of digital roundtables that were held 1–2 December 2021 to help inform this report.