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More myths about migrants and work

  • 11 April 2019


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'.

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