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More myths about migrants and work



Former NSW opposition leader Michael Daley was much maligned for his remarks that 'Sydney's young children [are] being replaced by young people from typically Asia with PhDs'. The statement is symptomatic of a larger issue, reflecting the extent to which the community is misinformed and misled about these issues. The Australian job market is not favourable to Australian people of colour, much less 'young people from Asia'.

Michael Daley in March 2019 (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) report released in 2018 looked into the cultural backgrounds of the CEOs of the top 200 companies listed on the ASX. Almost 76.9 per cent came from Anglo-Celtic background and only 2.7 per cent came from non-European backgrounds.

Dr Tim Soutphommasane's speech for the Kingsley Laffer Memorial Lecture in 2016 pointed out that 77 per cent of the 226 elected members in the House of Representatives and the Senate have an Anglo-Celtic background. In comparison, less than four per cent were from a non-European background. Furthermore, of the 124 heads of federal and state departments, only one person came from a non-European background.

In the academic realm, he continued, 40 university vice-chancellors had either an Anglo-Celtic or European background. Only one vice-chancellor came from a non-European background. Clearly most of these jobs are not occupied by Australians of a non-European background, much less an Asian background.

It is doubtful these positions could be occupied by migrants from Asia in the near future, given that they are already out of reach even for Australians from a non-European background. Migrants of colour find it increasingly challenging to land a job in the Australian market.

Although international students contribute $19 billion to the Australian economy annually, only 34 per cent of local companies hire international graduates, according to a report by Hobsons Solutions. Harsh, an international student in Australia, detailed his experience of trying to secure a job in the Australian labour market to SBS: 'I've applied for so many positions I was qualified for but often get overlooked because I'm not a local graduate,' he said. 'The interviewer asked me ... "Are you a permanent resident?" I didn't hear anything from them afterwards.'

For many Australian employers, permanent residency and citizenship are prerequisites for securing a job. It is a challenge to land an Australian job as a non-resident and an even greater challenge to keep the job amid a limited visa grant period. The Australian government has implemented tough immigration policy that prevents many immigrants from obtaining visas in the first place or, if granted, extending them. Work rights and time spent in Australia rely on visas. Daley is apparently oblivious to these obstacles.


"Applicants who have undertaken steps to apply the following year can see their plans crumble when the occupation lists change."


When the Australian government first announced the removal of the controversial 457 sponsorship visa and the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa as a replacement, it made a decision to exclude university lecturers from a route to permanent residency. After lobbying by universities, big business and medical research sectors, Peter Dutton relaxed the rules in July 2017. Since then university lecturers have been able to secure a path to permanent residency.

Clearly though, the government did not give highly specialised candidates that are fully capable of making valuable contributions to Australian society an easy to path to jump in and steal jobs from local people. Their education and experience appeared to be expendable in the face of 'Australian citizenship'.

Another problem that migrants face in regards to immigration policy is that it constantly changes. The Skills Occupation List (SOL) that specified which occupations would allow migrants to gain permanent residency on a points based system used to change every July.

In 2017, the government brought in three lists: the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) and the Regional Occupation List (ROL) to replace the SOL. Sure enough, these lists, too, continue to change unexpectedly. An occupation listed in one year could completely disappear the next year.

This makes it extremely difficult for applicants to plan ahead. Applicants who have undertaken steps to apply the following year can see their plans crumble when the occupation lists change. Ramandeep Singh told SBS that he moved to Canberra to meet the required number of points for the ROL, but yet another policy change once again impacted his plans to settle in Australia.

Migration to Australia is a complex, expensive and lengthy process. Factors such as education, experience, financial standing and age are redundant in the face of tough restrictions in a points based system. Ultimately, statements such as those made by Daley further ostracise a body of people that already faces numerous structural and institutional limitations.



Devana SenanayakeDevana Senanayake is a political reporter and radio producer focusing on intercultural racism, immigration, de-colonisation, diasporas and food. In 2017, she won Writer's Victoria Women of Colour Commission for her essay Misplaced in Pop about the misplacement of South Asian actors in Western media. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @dsenanayake16

Main image: Michael Daley in March 2019 (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Devana Senanayake, Michael Daley, immigration, discrimination, racism



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Existing comments

I haven’t heard anyone not criticize Michael Daley for his stupid and wrong comments about Asians in Sydney taking Australian jobs. In fact, coupled with his weak performance against Gladys Berejiklian, it cost him the Premiership. Berejiklian, whose grandparents were orphaned during the Armenian Genocide, and who only spoke Armenian until she was five, is a good example of a highly successful descendant of immigrant parents. And is it surprising that most CEO’s and politicians are Anglo-Celtic? Are most CEO’s and politicians in India and China of Indian and Chinese heritage? I doubt that anyone cares except those enmeshed in poisonous Identity Politics. These days, people are quick to spin every event to promote a chosen narrative. On April 8, The Guardian reported, “NSW man charged over alleged anti-Muslim attack” but gave no details of the attacker. Former Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane tweeted, “Such violent conduct doesn’t happen in a vacuum: for too long, certain politicians and media have been fomenting anti-Muslim hate.” The Illawarra Mercury reported the accused was Sharaf-Deen Yusuf, an Australian citizen of Nigerian background, who told the Wollongong Local Court that he wasn’t being properly represented because he was “a black man” and “a Muslim.”

Ross Howard | 09 April 2019  

Daley was actually talking about foreigners and began about their buying up houses stopping Australian kids from doing it. That he meandered on to phd's was unfortunate because none of it was a discussion about migration that the media turned it into. Otherwise why did the FIRB recently put foreigners at 8% tax for purchase and a $10,000 application fee. The fact is that people from overseas with money could come easily to Australia and buy property, thereby making it hard for our own young people to do so and also pushing up house prices. Shame it turned into a discussion on migration and race. That's a different discussion that we also need to have.

may | 12 April 2019  

Labor lost my vote in the state election over that comment. However, as an over 50 female casual worker in a certain retail stationary “barn”, I challenge any journalist to investigate why people from Bangladesh seem to have a direct link to employment with that particular company. Even the cleaning company was replaced with a Bangladeshi co. And they are paid below minimum wage.

Val | 13 April 2019  

"young people" are typically NOT found in the CEO's of the top 200 companies, so it is not a good example of how young people are not being displaced by immigrants in the job market. Need to compare apples with apples, not point to the very obvious structural imbalance that is there for the majority of Australians who are not eligible for the old boys club network.

Vernon Brabazon | 17 April 2019  

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