Centre for Work, Organisation and WellbeingResearch Fellow, Dr Susan Ressia, provided insight into the Southeast Queensland jobseeking experiences of 17 female and five male skilled migrants during a 20 October, 2015 seminar. The main focus of Dr Ressia’sresearch was on migrants and their spouses who had arrived in Australia as independent skilled visa holders. The experience of highly skilled humanitarian visa holders was also considered.

Made up of two jobseeking groups — those who had been looking for work for less than, or more than, 12 months — Sue interviewed participants twice (12 months apart) to understand the motivations behind their migration, their experiences of jobseeking and the strategies they each used to find employment commensurate with that held by them in their home country. The research revealed however that while these skilled migrants expected to achieve – because they met immigration criteria and/or have a job listed on the skilled occupation list – good employment outcomes fairly quickly after arrival, each suffered downward occupational mobility (DOM); that is, the job they found (if at all) is lower in skill level to their job held pre-migration.

Occupational mobility refers to an individual’s labour force mobility — both occupational and geographical, and the expectation is that such moves will improve occupational outcomes and economic benefits. It also encompasses the movement in social class, position and status that an occupation can bring.

The study also highlighted issues migrant jobseekers face that are not experienced by Anglo cohorts: perceived racial discrimination and wages that tended to be lower than Australian born workers.

skilled migrationDr Ressia reported on an underlying concern from many of the 22 interviewees about the loss of their skills while being out of the workforce. She explained the concern held by a highly skilled civil engineer who was afraid that she would be unable to keep up to speed with advancing technologies in her field and feared that her skills were becoming dated the longer she spent out of her occupation.

The complexities of gaining good employment outcomes was intensified, furthermore, for women with younger families. Issues around managing child care responsibilities, and a lack of financial resources, prevented their access to training which would otherwise enable the maintenance of their occupation-specific technological skill-set. As a result, Sue’s research showed that migrants may consider changing careers and subsequently undertake study in a different field.

Dr Ressiahighlighted the negative impact that being unfamiliar with Australia’s labour market nuances had upon migrants’ employment-seeking experiences, and the positive role of work placement programs in gaining employment in some instances:

“While…programs did help some of the migrants… – although not at a level commensurate with their qualifications, skills and experience – …they still experienced the effects of downward occupational mobility,” concludes Sue.

Contact the Centre for a copy of Dr Ressia’s PowerPoint presentation: [email protected] or phone 07 3735 3714.