Journal article

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on delivery of services to CALD communities in Australia

Refugee settlement Migrants CALD Government services Multiculturalism Social services Australia

The global COVID-19 pandemic has intensified social fissures, contributed to greater economic inequalities, and has particularly affected the health, social and wellbeing of vulnerable communities. A recent survey identified migrant workers as one of the most vulnerable groups in the pandemic. Where measures to protect global economies, such as pivoting to work-from-home arrangements, has affected 93% of the world’s workforce, those in frontline and essential jobs are not able to do so and this work is often carried out by migrants (International Labour Organization, 2021: 14). This places migrant workers at higher risk of exposure to the virus and poverty. Moreover, migrant workers that are ‘women, children, people with disabilities, the marginalised and the displaced’ are at greater risk (United Nations, 2020). Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets are already lagging and the pandemic has further widened the wealth gap between countries (SDG Integration, 2020).

The pandemic has exacerbated fault lines along social, economic and ethnicity divides and has uncovered structurally entrenched inequalities within and across societies. Australia is no exception. This policy briefing paper is presented as part of an Australian Research Linkage Project on mapping social services in multicultural communities, where one of its key objectives is to understand the experiences of service delivery and provision modes to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in the areas of health, housing and employment (and job training) at different temporal junctures along their settlement journey. This paper will focus on the impact of COVID-19 on CALD communities, the challenges they face, why they are particularly vulnerable in such crises and how service providers are similarly affected.

In light of the above, this paper makes the following policy recommendations:

  • Improve access to online services
  • Increase number of bicultural workers
  • Reduce gaps in CALD data collection
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