Apply, apply, negative reply: Research reveals the job-seeking experiences of migrants in Australia

Renu Narchal

A University of Western Sydney study has found that securing suitable employment can be a long, difficult and disappointing process for skilled migrants following their arrival in Australia.

Dr Renu Narchal from the School of Social Sciences and Psychology worked in partnership with the Community Migrant Resource Centre formerly known as The Hills Holroyd Parramatta Migrant Resource Centre to survey 107 migrants and refugees about their job-seeking experiences in Australia.

At the time of being surveyed, more than 50 percent of the participants were unemployed. Whilst some participants (7 per cent) had secured jobs prior to their arrival, approximately 42 per cent reported spending between 1-6 months looking for jobs, and others reported spending 7-12 months (23 per cent) or more than one year (26 per cent) job-searching.

“Of the participants in this survey, 58 per cent had tertiary-level and 15 percent had postgraduate qualifications,” says Dr Narchal.

“They came to this country with the perception that Australia needs skilled workers and are aplenty. What they found was a tough, competitive job market where their skills were not valued but rather discounted eventually forcing many to take up jobs that are low-paid and not commensurate to their skills qualifications and experience.”

As part of the study, 30 of the participants were interviewed about their job-seeking experiences in Australia. These interviews highlighted a number of key issues, which are commonly faced by the migrant job-seekers:

  • Migrant’s expectations of migrating to Australia including prior perceptions of the Australian job market and Australian culture – substantially differed from the reality they experienced.
  • Throughout the entire migration process, job-seeking was identified as the most stressful and biggest challenge, and was found to have significant negative impacts on health and wellbeing.
  • Perceived racial and cultural discrimination was considered a significant barrier to securing suitable, meaningful employment – as well as a lack of local connections and local work experience.

In the report, Apply Apply Negative Reply: Understanding Job-Seeking Experiences of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Job-Seekers in Australia, Dr Narchal has outlined a range of recommendations that would assist skilled migrants in finding suitable employment.

These recommendations include:

  • Improving communications and preparedness with overseas migrants prior to their arrival in Australia, so that they are aware of the challenges in securing gainful employment in a foreign country and are aware that the job-seeking process may take a significant amount of time.
  • Improving services for migrant job-seekers, so that they have better information and are supported and mentored throughout the job-seeking process.
  • The provision of financial support to skilled migrants – similar to HECS-help made available to students for completing tertiary education with a similar pay back policy plan– to allow for a successful transition into Australian life and ease the pressure of job-seeking.

Dr Narchal says additional support from government agencies would make a huge difference to skilled migrants in this country.

“An individual who chooses to migrant in search of better occupational opportunities is likely to respond to the stress associated with the migratory process more favourably than a person who is forced to migrate due to civil unrest,” says Dr Narchal.

“But the rosy picture presented of Australia as the land of endless opportunities is misleading. Migrants take a leap into Australia in good faith, only to experience dissonance and negative replies! Due to a lack of appropriate support services they are left to struggle in a strange new country.

“Skilled migrants come to Australia of their own free will but they need a fair go – they essentially need job-seeking support and also need emotional support if things do not go to plan.”

Dr Narchal’s work with the migrant community related to job-seeking support, as part of the ‘Each One Assist One’ community engagement project delivered at Community Migrant Resource Centre, Parramatta, was recently recognised with a Zest, Enthusiasm, Strength and Tenacity (ZEST) award.


22 April 2013

Photo: Sally Tsoutas

Contact: Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer

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