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29 Mar 2021

Media releases

Underutilised migrant skills a huge opportunity

A report looking at the contribution of permanent skilled migrants highlights the unrealised potential in newcomer communities and the need to provide income support and access to family tax benefits earlier in the settlement journey, according to Australia’s largest refugee and migration resettlement support provider, Settlement Services International (SSI).

Nearly a quarter of permanent skilled migrants in Australia are working in a job beneath their skill level, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia found in a report released today, which made a series of recommendations to improve outcomes for migrants and the economy.

The report’s findings point to the unrealised potential in migrant communities and aligns with anecdotal reports from the 37,600 people SSI supports each year, said CEO Violet Roumeliotis.

“The main barriers facing migrant and refugee jobseekers include insufficient Australian work experience, limited support with resumes and interview skills, and limited English language proficiency,” she said.

“We believe this challenge requires a number of solutions. One is tailored job seeker services for people of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds that address the unique barriers they face and support them across their employment journey.”

The CEDA report recommended the establishment of a new government-regulated online skills-matching jobs platform that would allow permanent skilled migrants to register their skills, and let accredited employers hire migrants from within the platform.

The report recommends the need to reduce newly arrived resident’s waiting period for unemployment benefits from four years to six months.

“This is consistent with a recommendation of the Productivity Commission, which noted that a reduced waiting period would likely improve overall community outcomes in terms of social participation and integration, employment and health,” said Ms Roumeliotis.

“Reducing the waiting period would give permanent skilled migrants a better chance to find a job that maximises their contribution. Research suggests increases to the waiting period since the late 1990s have exacerbated skills mismatch, while delivering only modest annual savings to the federal budget.”

Ms Roumeliotis said the Australian government rightly waived these waiting periods until the end of March 2021 as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This forward-thinking is a great illustration of the dual nature of this pandemic. It has created huge challenges but it also offers us opportunities. In this case, it is the opportunity to rethink our approach to migration, taking into account new research like this, which illustrates the economic benefit of improving some areas of our migration program,” she said.

“I would urge our government to consider this report’s recommendations in making a decision about where and how we resume migration when it is safe to do so.”

Along with reviewing the waiting period for employment-based income support, SSI also advocates for the removal of the one-year waiting period for new permanent residents to access family tax benefits that help with child-care and school costs should also be considered. These waiting periods were waived during COVID-19 emergency measures but are set to resume on 1 April 2021.

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