Employment challenges: the role of gender, ethnicity and migrant status

Sue Ressia
Dr Sue Ressia

Prompted by ongoing media coverage around the treatment of migrant workers on 457 visas, (recently submitted) PhD candidate and WOW-affiliated Higher Degree Research student member, Sue Ressia, saw an opportunity to find out about, and add to, the body of research dealing with vulnerable workers and the issues they face when seeking out employment in Australia. WOW spent five minutes with Sue to learn a little more about this topical issue.

What did your literature review reveal?

“After reading the migrant literature, it became clear that independent skilled migrants also experienced inferior employment outcomes. I found this really interesting because I would have expected that highly qualified migrants would find good jobs, and were migrating to fill identified skill shortages in the labour market. However, the initial research found that outcomes for Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) migrants were not so good.”

What didn’t you know then, and what do you know now, as a result of your research?

“I didn’t know specifically how the migration decision and subsequent outcomes affected migrants and their families. I didn’t know how migrant couples negotiated job seeking. I didn’t understand why they would experience disadvantage due to their background.”

Where or for whom, will your research make an impact?

“The research has contributed towards a number of areas. First it highlights that skilled NESB migrants are still facing problems in finding commensurate work. Secondly, the research showcases the lesser-known stories about migrant women and family, as historically, the focus has been on the experience of the male as the primary migrant.” “The research also highlighted that migrants face issues with access to information about job seeking and lack understanding about local cultural practices when applying for jobs.” “The research importantly contributed to the advancement of intersectionality theory [which], in basic terms, is how a person’s individual characteristics intersect in ways that may create disadvantage for [them]…within various social settings. The research provided a framework within which to analyse how disadvantage is created when new migrant status, ethnicity and gender intersect with the operation of the local labour market. The result is that skilled migrants often suffer downward occupational mobility, and it can affect people differently depending upon gender, and the impact of family care responsibilities.”

Where to from here?

“I am currently working with the Queensland Working Women’s Service on their 5th Our Work Our Lives Conference, as an academic committee member. I tutor in a number of courses at Griffith University, and I am also working as a Research Assistant on two projects. The first is focusing on the use of smart co-working centre space. The second is looking at franchising Australian restaurant businesses in Asia. These projects are quite different to my research on migrants, gender and employment, but I have found that my research training together with my previous career experiences, enables me to apply my skills to many different research issues and opportunities.” If you are interested in undertaking a PhD at Griffith University, visit the Higher Degree Research Student Centre’s website.

Sue’s PhD supervisors are WOW members, Professor Glenda Strachan and Associate Professor Janis Bailey