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Refugees and employment: the effect of visible difference on discrimination

27 Mar 2007

Key findings from this report(extract from the Executive summary):

• There are high levels of unemployment among skilled refugees
• Massive loss of occupational status among skilled refugees
• Persistence of a segmented labour market, where racially and culturally visible migrants and refugees in particular, despite their skills levels, are allocated unattractive jobs
• Loss of human capital benefits to Australia and a waste of skills currently in short supply — for example, among respondents doctors and engineers reported driving taxis, and teachers cleaning offices
• Refugees face structural disadvantage in the labour market (e.g. non-recognition or part recognition of qualifications; lack of accessible referees)
• Discrimination on the basis of race, religion and ethnic origin plays a role in creating unsatisfactory employment outcomes. Employers discriminate on the basis of ‘soft skills’ such as Australian cultural knowledge
• ‘Everyday’ street racism does not affect levels of life satisfaction as much as perceived discrimination in the labour market

Policy implications
• Data confirms a degree of disadvantage of skilled refugees in the labour market. There is a possibility that as a result, ‘new and emerging’ African and Middle Eastern migrant communities may develop into marginalised minorities where social problems may crystallise over time, unless more decisive measures are introduced by policymakers, such as:
• Improvements to the national system of qualifications recognition in order to include greater regulation of professional organisations and registration boards
• Coordination between professional registration boards and employment agencies to ensure targeted professional training and work experience placements, especially in the areas of skill shortages
• Developing public awareness campaigns to make employers aware of the benefits of diversity for their work environments and productivity
• Educating employers about what constitutes 'discrimination' and the broader societal benefits of providing employment opportunities to minorities. In this respect, political leadership is also necessary to turn around the climate of hostility towards those who are ‘different’ – Muslims in particular
• Targeted employment seeking assistance for refugees and other 'at employment risk' categories of immigrants (especially CALD)
• Instituting measures to ensure that ethnic diversity statistics are kept in all companies with over one hundred employees, as in Canada, to raise awareness of diversity and target more equitable outcomes.
• Ensuring anti-discrimination agencies increase their public profile and are more proactive in encouraging people to report their grievances. Links between those providing settlement services to CALD migrants and HREOC (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) may result in more cases coming to light, and have a preventative effect.

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