Curtin Economics Centre research finds language and lack of recognition for overseas qualifications hinders skilled migrants


Bateman resident Delfino Morais says he had to adapt and up-skill when he arrived in WA from Dubai 17 years ago.
Bateman resident Delfino Morais says he had to adapt and up-skill when he arrived in WA from Dubai 17 years ago.

LANGUAGE and a lack of recognition for qualifications gained overseas have been identified as barriers for skilled migrants establishing themselves in Australia, according to research by the Curtin Economics Centre.

Of 508 respondents to a survey conducted for the Minimising Skills Wastage and Maximising the Health of Skilled Migrant Groups report, 53.1 per cent said they were in jobs utilising less of their ability than prior to moving to WA.

Co-lead author Jaya Dantas, a professor of international health, said a failure to utilise the skills of professional migrants remained a critical issue for the entire country.

“Australia has a long history of using migrants to fill skills gaps and labour shortages, but those skilled migrants face a range of barriers to both gaining employment and working in jobs that are in line with their qualifications and experience,” she said.

Language was found to be a barrier to both employment and settlement, while it was not unusual for skilled migrants to be turned away by local employers because their qualifications were not recognised here.

“Skilled migrants who are unable to find employment in their chosen occupation result in skills wastage, which can lead to being unable to support their families, economic hardship and, in some cases, potentially becoming a drain on government resources,” Professor Dantas said.

“Some of the examples of skills wastage included a former engineer now working in WA as a technician, a vocational school teacher turned cleaner and packer, a geologist working in aged care and a mechanical engineer employed as a security officer.”

The research also found under-employment contributed to health and wellbeing issues both at work and in the home.

“Employment and settlement challenges can have significant impacts on the mental health of newly settled migrants, resulting in anxiety and social isolation, possible depression and feelings of isolation in their new home,” Prof Dantas said.Bateman resident Delfino Morais worked as a senior finance officer for Sheikh Zayed Nahyan, helping establish Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates.

These days, 17 years after arriving in Australia, Mr Morais is an accountant and admin manager for Naval Base firm Enzed.

He said there was a “culture shock” moving to Australia, where his credentials in the international financial sector were not recognised.

“We just tried to adapt and also up-skill our qualifications to meet Australian standards,” he said.

“It’s the norm for people when you move to a new country.

“When you’re in Rome, do as the Romans do. It was the same when I moved to Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

“At the moment I feel like I’m on an equal footing and am very fortunate.”

With Australia likely to remain an attractive destination for skilled migrants, the report offered numerous recommendations.

Among them was the need for current and accessible labour market information relating to a migrant’s profession and in-depth Visa processes that call for qualification recognition and language testing.

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