Australia attracts a wide range of migrants thanks to its safety and security, an abundance of economic opportunities, and a good quality of life. At the same time, migrants are a critical driving force behind the country’s growth.
As such, Australia has been pursuing skilled migrants under its highly selective points system – the Numerical Multifactor Assessment Scheme – which takes into account age, English ability, and work skills. However, despite the rigorous screening process, many of these migrant talents still go wasted.
“If they were to continuously attract highly educated and highly skilled (workers such as) engineers, computer scientists, doctors, and they’re underemployed, it’s a ‘brain waste’,” explains Eddy Ng, Visiting Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the Singapore campus of James Cook University, and the F.C. Manning Chair in Economics and Business at Dalhousie University.
“It’s also a ‘brain drain’ from their home countries – they’re taking away doctors or engineers from India or Sri Lanka or other developing countries where they came from,” he adds. “So we wanted to find out how we can actually improve their success in the host country, in this case, Australia.”
In collaboration with co-authors Dr Diana Rajendran, Senior Lecturer from Swinburne University of Technology, and Drs Greg Sears and Nailah Ayub from Carleton University, Professor Ng carried out a study to investigate how various factors at the individual, national, societal, and organisational level influenced the career success of skilled migrants in Australia.
Over a hundred skilled migrants in Australia were surveyed, and the team behind the study concurred that discrimination – whether simply taste-based discrimination, or against foreign credentials or age – poses certain barriers to success for skilled migrants. This is particularly true for those coming from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESBs), and overcoming these barriers could lead to more positive career outcomes.
“So we found that certain things do help,” says Professor Ng. “Taking up Australian citizenship, migrating at an earlier age, having a really inclusive workplace where co-workers support you, as well as having Australian credentials so that there’s less discounting (of foreign credentials).”
However, the study also demonstrates that migrants living in a neighbourhood with more families from the same country of origin are more likely to have increased job satisfaction.
This is a remarkable development, as it disagrees with the hypothesis that living in an ethnic neighbourhood may limit interactions with host country nationals, which in turn may impede the development of relationships with host country nationals (i.e., Australians) necessary for career success.
Ultimately, Professor Ng emphasises that both the Australian government and employers have to do something in order to support skilled migrants who wish to move into the country.
“When you bring people in, you’ve got to make sure that they’re successful, otherwise there’s going to be a negative reputation. For example, ‘don’t go to Australia because people can’t find jobs’.”
Therefore, Australia can learn from countries such as Canada and the United States, and enact policies that reinforce equal employment opportunity or equality of outcomes.
This means that employers could seek to ensure that all employees and job applicants have a level playing field when engaging with the job market, as well as look into what more they can do for underrepresented groups so that the office demographics mirror the demographics of the general population.
“They are doing none of those at the moment, so this is an issue that the (Australian) government has to address.”
To find out more about Professor Ng's research interest, visit https://www.jcu.edu.sg/about-us/staff-profiles/professor-eddy-ng
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Rajendran, D., Ng, E. S., Sears, G. and Ayub, N. (2019), Determinants of Migrant Career Success: A Study of Recent Skilled Migrants in Australia. Int Migr. doi:10.1111/imig.12586