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3416.0 - Perspectives on Migrants, June 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/08/2010   
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ECONOMIC OUTCOMES OF SKILLED PROGRAM MIGRANTS - EXPERIMENTAL ESTIMATES FROM THE MIGRANTS STATISTICAL STUDY

On this page:
WHAT IS THE MIGRANTS STATISTICAL STUDY?
WHAT IS THE CENSUS DATA ENHANCEMENT PROJECT?
WHAT IS THE DATA QUALITY?
WHY DID WE LOOK AT ECONOMIC OUTCOMES OF SKILLED PROGRAM MIGRANTS?
WHAT DO WE ALREADY KNOW?
WHAT DID WE FIND?
FURTHER INFORMATION
LIST OF REFERENCES


WHAT IS THE MIGRANTS STATISTICAL STUDY?

The five-yearly Census of Population and Housing provides considerable information about overseas-born migrants living in Australia. Various data relating to migrants are also available from a range of other ABS sources and from the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). However, there are certain questions that the Census data and other sources alone cannot answer. A key question relates to the relationship between a migrant’s visa status and their post-arrival economic outcomes.

Understanding of settlement outcomes of Australia’s recent migrant population has been enhanced through analysis of a newly created data file. This file brings together the breadth of the 2006 Census data with detailed administrative information from DIAC's Settlement Database describing settlers in Australia who were granted a visa to permanently live in Australia between 1 January 2000 and 8 August 2006. By effectively attaching ‘visa category’ and other immigration information to records on the Census file, variation in labour market and other socioeconomic outcomes across different migrant groups can be more readily identified and understood. Ultimately this will feed into the future development and evaluation of immigration programs and support services for migrants.



WHAT IS THE CENSUS DATA ENHANCEMENT PROJECT?

The Migrants Statistical Study is a component of the ABS Census Data Enhancement (CDE) project which brings together a 5% sample of Census records with data from DIAC's Settlement Database (SDB) to form a new dataset. The linking methodology used to link the SDB and the 2006 Census data was probabilistic linking. The method linked records from two files using several variables common to both files. The data was linked without the use of name and address. Records were also weighted such that estimates produced from the file would match to key SDB totals.

The establishment of the CDE project and associated details are presented in ABS information papers Census Data Enhancement Project: An Update (ABS, 2006a), Enhancing the Population Census: Developing a Longitudinal View (ABS, 2006b) and the Australian Statistician’s Statement of Intention (ABS, 2005).

WHAT IS THE DATA QUALITY?

Since only a 5% sample of the Census records are included, there will be sampling error associated with estimates from the linked file. Sampling error is the error in the estimate caused by selecting a sample rather than taking a complete enumeration of the population. It is caused by the variability in responses for different members of the population. Using a 5% sample, there will be some subpopulations for which there will be too few observations in the sample to obtain reliable estimates (i.e. the sampling error is too large).

Error associated with the linking process may occur due to false or missed links. False links are where records for different individuals were linked, which may occur when different people have similar characteristics. Missed links may occur when an equivalent record cannot be found. This may happen in cases where a different value is held on each file in respect of one or more linking variables or where variables had missing values. Another potential source of error occurs where there is not an equivalent record on the other dataset, e.g. the person has a record on the SDB, but was missed in the Census.

The major quality issue is the number of SDB records in the population of interest that cannot be linked (approximately 34%). To draw conclusions from the linked data about the entire population of interest assumes that the unlinked records would have similar characteristics.

While all estimates have been benchmarked to totals from the Settlements Database it should be noted that these totals include some people who have died, or people who have emigrated from Australia between the time of their arrival and Census night. Therefore, although the estimates are weighted to 'known' benchmarks, the benchmarks may not be realistic, and thus caution needs to be exercised in reporting what the estimates represent.

Due to the quality issues mentioned above, estimates should generally be treated with caution. More information about data quality for the Statistical Study has been published in a perspectives article 'Settlement Outcomes for Humanitarian Program Migrants - Experimental Estimates from the Migrants Statistical Study'.

Further information about the data and the linking methodology used in the Statistical Study is available in the Quality Study paper 'Research paper: Assessing the Quality of Linking Migrant Settlement Records to Census Data' (ABS, 2009).This research paper provides a summary of the Migrants Quality Study.

WHY DID WE LOOK AT ECONOMIC OUTCOMES OF SKILLED PROGRAM MIGRANTS?

Over the last 10-15 years, Australian migration policies have increasingly focused on attracting skilled migrants. While the global financial crisis has had some impact, for example, there was a reduction in the skilled migration intake for 2008-09, the size of skilled migration still increased by 5.7% from the previous financial year to 114,777 places and was the largest outcome on record (DIAC, 2009). The aim of these policies is to bring in skilled migrants with recognised skills who are able to fill particular positions required in Australia.

Migrants may have difficulty finding employment, particularly those who have recently arrived in Australia. In addition, information is needed in respect of the 'quality' of employment for working migrants - in terms of pay and conditions, and match to skills and qualifications - and how these factors vary across different migrant subgroups. The ease with which migrants find employment, and broader labour force outcomes, may depend on the type of visa they possess, i.e. their entry conditions.

In terms of the Skilled Program, there are four main visa categories: 'Australian sponsored', 'Employer sponsored', 'Independent' and 'Other'. The 'Australian sponsored' category allows Australian citizens or residents to sponsor their parents, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and non-dependent children. Applicants must meet a points test which takes into account their age and work skills as well as various sponsor attributes. 'Employer sponsored' visas are for highly skilled persons nominated by employers in Australia who have been unable to find or train skilled workers in Australia for the position. 'Independent' visas are for unsponsored applicants whose education, skills, English language ability and ready employability will contribute to the Australian economy. The main visas in the 'Other' category include 'Business Skills' which are granted to successful business people wishing to permanently migrate to Australia and 'Distinguished Talents' visas.

In addition to Skilled Program visas, the two other main visa programs discussed in this article, in a comparative context, are the Humanitarian and Family programs. For further information about these visa programs and the different Skilled Program visa categories, refer to DIAC's website: http://www.immi.gov.au/.

The data throughout this article refers to migrants aged 15 years and over. In 2006, half (50%) of the migrant population aged 15 years and over had arrived through the Skilled migration program.

WHAT DO WE ALREADY KNOW?

Country of birth

Some information on Skilled Program migrants is currently available from DIAC's Settlement Database (SDB). This data has information on the size of the skilled population and some characteristics of this population, so it has been used in this article to provide indicative information about country of birth. This data has been extracted from the SDB file used to create the linked dataset, so it refers to settlers in Australia who were granted a visa to permanently live in Australia between 1 January 2000 and 8 August 2006. Data for more recent arrivals are available from DIAC's Settlement Database (SDB).

Based on analysis of the SDB file, the most common regions of birth for Skilled Program migrants aged 15 years and over were 'North-West Europe' (22%), 'North-East Asia' (20%), 'Southern and Central Asia' (18%) and 'South-East Asia' (17%). Migrants, aged 15 years and over, born in the United Kingdom, India, China and South Africa comprised half (50%) of the Skilled Program intake.

A majority of the Indian and Chinese migrants (70% and 67% respectively) and half of the migrants from the United Kingdom (50%) were granted visas under the Independent Skilled Program. In contrast, half (51%) of the migrants from the Philippines and 40% from Sri Lanka were granted visas under the Australian Sponsored Program. 'Employer sponsorship' made up almost a quarter of all visas granted to migrants from the United Kingdom (23%) and South Africa (23%).

Top 10 Countries of birth for Skilled Program migrants, 15 years and over - 2006

Number
Proportion
no.
%

1 United Kingdom
60158
17.9
2 India
42073
12.5
3 China (excludes SARs and Taiwan Province)
41162
12.2
4 South Africa
25351
7.5
5 Malaysia
16970
5.0
6 Indonesia
16717
5.0
7 Singapore
10800
3.2
8 Philippines
8831
2.6
9 Korea, Republic of (South)
8028
2.4
10 Sri Lanka
7683
2.3
Other countries
87384
26.0
Total - all countries(a)
336065
100.0

(a) This is the total of all Skilled Program migrants and includes country of birth not stated.
Source: Visa subclass and Country of Birth (DIAC, SDB extract).


WHAT DID WE FIND?

Selected post-arrival economic outcomes

The linked file has increased our capacity to investigate post-arrival economic outcomes of Skilled Program migrants as a group. The remainder of this article will focus on data from the linked file, which will provide information on various post-arrival economic outcomes, including current labour force status, employment characteristics, English proficiency levels, income, year of arrival and participation in volunteer work.

In summary, of the Skilled Program migrants aged 15 years and over:
  • 50% were employed full-time and 18% were employed part-time,
  • 60% of those employed were aged between 25 and 39 years,
  • 74% who had completed a year 12 were employed compared with 29% of those who had completed year 9,
  • employed migrants were more likely to have completed a bachelor degree (37%),
  • 86% of employed migrants were employees not owning their own business and 11% were owner managers of an enterprise,
  • 70% of employed migrants worked 35 hours a week or more,
  • the proportion of primary applicants employed in full-time work (63%) was almost double the proportion of secondary applicants (32%) employed in full-time work,
  • the proportion of males working full-time (63%) was almost double the proportion of females working full-time (35%),
  • were commonly employed as 'Professionals' (36%) or 'Technicians and trades workers' (13%),
  • 30% earned less than $250 a week and 36% earned more than $800 a week,
  • 37% only spoke English and 59% spoke English well or very well,
  • the proportion who were employed full-time was higher for residents who had been living in Australia for a length of time between 4 and 6 years (54%) when compared with recent migrants (48%),
  • 14% participated in voluntary work.

Labour force status

Labour force status is the primary measure for assessing employment outcomes of Skilled Program migrants.

Labour force status by visa type, 15 years and over - 2006
Graph: Labour force status by visa type, 15 years and over—2006


In general, half (50%) of Skilled Program migrants aged 15 years and over were employed full-time compared with 35% of Family Program migrants and 17% of Humanitarian Program migrants. Almost a fifth (18%) of Skilled Program migrants were employed part-time. In comparison, in the 2006 Census, 37% of the Australian population aged 15 years and over were employed full-time and 17% were employed part-time.

People who are 'not in the labour force' may be retired, attending an educational institution, have a short term or long term health condition, or could be caring for another family member or caring for children. Skilled Program migrants were less likely to be 'not in the labour force' (23%) when compared with Family Program migrants (36%) and Humanitarian Program migrants (57%). By way of comparison, in the 2006 Census, a third (33%) of the Australian population was 'not in the labour force'.

The unemployment rate for Skilled Program migrants in 2006 was 7.3%. In comparison, in the 2006 Census, the unemployment rate in the Australian population was 5.2%.

Labour force status by skilled visa type, 15 years and over - 2006
Graph: Labour force status by skilled visa type, 15 years and over—2006


The Skill stream of Australia's permanent Migration Program provides for over 60 skilled visa subclasses, each with their own characteristics and criteria leading to permanent residency in Australia. In this article, the skilled visa subclasses are broadly grouped as follows: 'Australian Sponsored', 'Employer Sponsored', 'Independent' and 'Other'. Most skilled visas require applicants to pass the General Skilled Migration (GSM) points test. Applicants are then selected on a number of criteria including their age, English language ability, qualifications, work experience, nominations or sponsorships, and their nominated skilled occupation (DIAC Fact Sheet 25). However, secondary applicants are not required to meet all of the same criteria. Secondary applicants may include the primary applicant's partner, dependent children or dependent relatives. For further information about Skilled visa eligibility requirements, refer to DIAC's website: http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/.

More than half (54%) of Skilled Program migrants were in the 'Independent' category. The other two main components of the Skilled Program migration were 'Australian sponsorship' (20%) and 'Employer sponsorship' (15%).

Just over half of migrants with 'Employer sponsored' and 'Independent' visas were employed full-time (56% and 53% respectively) and almost half of 'Australian sponsored' visa holders (48%) were employed full-time. A lower proportion of migrants in the 'Other skilled' category were employed full-time (31%). The proportion of 'Other skilled' migrants 'Not in the labour force' (40%) was approximately double the proportion of 'Australian sponsored' (23%), 'Employer sponsored' (19%) and 'Independent' (20%) migrants in this category.

Labour force status of skilled migrants by applicant type, 15 years and over - 2006
Graph: Labour force status of skilled migrants by applicant type, 15 years and over—2006


The proportion of primary applicant Skilled Program migrants employed in full-time work (63%) was almost double the proportion of Skilled Program secondary applicants (32%) employed in full-time work. However, Skilled Program secondary applicants were more likely to be employed part-time (21%) when compared with Skilled Program primary applicants (15%). A smaller proportion of primary applicant Skilled Program migrants were 'not in the labour force' (13%), however, over a third of secondary applicant Skilled Program migrants were 'not in the labour force' (36%). Half (51%) of the secondary applicant Skilled Program migrants who were not in the labour force were studying at an educational institution.

Labour force status of skilled migrants by sex, 15 years and over - 2006
Graph: Labour force status of skilled migrants by sex, 15 years and over—2006


In 2006, the proportion of male Skilled Program migrants 15 years and over, working full-time (63%) was almost double the proportion of female Skilled Program migrants working full-time (35%). However, there was a higher proportion of female Skilled Program migrants in part-time jobs (22%) compared with male Skilled Program migrants (13%). Female Skilled Program migrants were also more likely to be 'not in the labour force' (32%) in comparison to male Skilled Program migrants (14%). A large proportion (40%) of the female Skilled Program migrants 15 years and over, who were 'not in the labour force' were studying at an educational institution. Note that male Skilled Program migrants were also far more likely to be primary applicants (64%).

Labour force status of skilled migrants by age group - 2006
Graph: Labour force status of skilled migrants by age group—2006


In 2006, 60% of employed Skilled Program migrants were aged between 25 and 39 years. In comparison, 10% of employed Skilled Program migrants were aged between 15 and 24 and 6% were aged over 50. A majority of employed Skilled Program migrants aged 25 to 39 and aged over 50 were primary applicants (75% and 63% respectively).

Almost two-thirds (63%) of Skilled Program migrants aged between 15 and 19 were 'not in the labour force', compared with almost a quarter (23%) of Skilled Program migrants of all ages. Most (96%) of the Skilled Program migrants aged between 15 and 19 who were 'not in the labour force' were studying at an educational institution and they were all 'secondary applicants'.

A person was 'unemployed' if they were actively looking for full-time or part-time employment and were available to start work if a position had been available. A higher proportion of Skilled Program migrants aged between 20 and 24 (11%) were unemployed in comparison to 6% of all Skilled Program migrants.

In 2006, a higher proportion of Skilled Program migrants who completed year 12 or the equivalent qualification were employed (74%) when compared with those who completed year 11 (56%), year 10 (61%) or year 9 (29%).

The data from the linked file does not provide an indication of whether the non-school qualification was obtained overseas or in Australia. In 2006, 37% of employed Skilled Program migrants had completed a bachelor degree, 20% had completed a postgraduate degree, 13% had completed a diploma and 11% had completed a certificate. A third (34%) of unemployed Skilled Program migrants had a bachelor degree. In general, most Skilled Program migrants who had completed a non-school qualification had found employment, for example, 83% with a postgraduate degree, 76% with a bachelor degree, 73% with a diploma and 81% with a certificate level qualification.

Characteristics of employment

Employed Skilled Program migrants are discussed in this section in terms of their type of employment, hours worked, occupation and industry.

In 2006, most employed Skilled Program migrants were employees not owning their own business (86%) while 11% were owner managers of an enterprise. By way of comparison, in the 2006 Census, 81% of all employed persons were employees not owning a business and 16% were owner managers of an enterprise.

A small proportion (11%) of Skilled Program migrants were working 15 hours or less a week. In the 2006 Census, 15% of the Australian population worked 15 hours a week or less. Skilled Program migrants were more likely to be working full-time hours or 35 hours a week or more (70%) than Family migrants (64%) or Humanitarian Program migrants (56%). In the 2006 Census, almost two thirds (64%) of the Australian population worked 35 hours a week or more.

Occupation of employed migrants, 15 years and over - 2006
Graph: Occupation of employed migrants, 15 years and over—2006


The occupation group with the highest proportion of Skilled Program migrants was 'Professionals' (36%). In the 2006 Census, the most common occupation group was also 'Professionals' as 20% of the Australian population held jobs in this occupation group. 'Professionals' is a broad occupation grouping, which incorporates many fields such as: Arts and Media; Business, Human Resource and Marketing; Design, Engineering, Science and Transport; Education; Health; Information and Communication Technology; and Legal, Social and Welfare Professionals.

The second most popular occupation groups amongst Skilled Program migrant workers were 'Technicians and trades workers' (13%) and 'Clerical and administrative workers' (13%). In comparison, the highest proportion of Family migrants were employed as 'Professionals' (21%) and the highest proportion of Humanitarian entrants were employed as 'Labourers' (31%).

The most commonly reported industries of Skilled Program migrants' employment included: 'Professional, Scientific and Technical Services' (12%), 'Health Care and Social Assistance' (12%) and 'Manufacturing' (11%). Employment in 'Professional, Scientific and Technical Services' was not as common for Family (8%) or Humanitarian migrants (3%). However, in contrast, almost a quarter (24%) of Humanitarian Program migrants worked in the 'Manufacturing' industry.

English proficiency and employment outcomes

One barrier migrants may face when trying to secure employment in Australia is their level of English proficiency.

For each person who speaks a language other than English at home, the 'Proficiency in Spoken English' variable on the 2006 Census classifies their self-assessed proficiency in spoken English. Responses to the question on proficiency in English were subjective. For example, one respondent may have considered that a response of 'Well' was appropriate if they could communicate well enough to do the shopping while another respondent may have considered such a response appropriate only for people who can hold a social conversation. Proficiency in spoken English should be regarded as a broad indicator of a person's ability to speak English rather than a definitive measure of his/her ability.

English proficiency of skilled migrants by labour force status, 15 years and over - 2006
Graph: English proficiency of skilled migrants by labour force status, 15 years and over—2006


In 2006, 37% of employed Skilled Program migrants only spoke English and 59% spoke English well or very well. Skilled migrants who were 'not in the labour force' were more likely to have a low level of English proficiency as 12% spoke English 'not well' or 'not at all', compared with 7% of unemployed Skilled migrants and 4% of employed Skilled migrants.

English proficiency of skilled migrants by non-school qualification, 15 years and over - 2006
Graph: English proficiency of skilled migrants by non-school qualification, 15 years and over—2006


In 2006, 60% of Skilled Program migrants who had completed a certificate level course only spoke English. However, only 20% of Skilled Program migrants who had completed a postgraduate degree only spoke English, so they were more likely to be bilingual or multilingual. Most (78%) of Skilled Program migrants who had completed a postgraduate degree indicated that they spoke English very well or well.

Income

A lower proportion of Skilled Program migrants (30%) earnt less than $250 a week when compared with the proportion of Family (41%) or Humanitarian migrants (53%). Skilled Program migrants were also more likely to earn more than $800 a week (36%) when compared with Family (21%) or Humanitarian migrants (6%).

Individual income (weekly) of skilled migrants by applicant type, 15 years and over - 2006
Graph: Individual income (weekly) of skilled migrants by applicant type, 15 years and over—2006


In 2006, a higher proportion of Skilled Program migrants who were primary applicants (22%), 15 years and over, earnt over $1,300 a week when compared with secondary applicants within the Skilled Program (7%). On the other hand, not earning an income or having a negative income was more common for Skilled secondary applicants (29%) than Skilled primary applicants (11%).

Individual income (weekly), 15 years and over - 2006
Graph: Individual income (weekly), 15 years and over—2006


A higher proportion of Skilled Program migrants (16%), 15 years and over, earnt over $1,300 a week when compared with the Australian population, 15 years and over (10%). On the other hand, not earning an income or having a negative income was more common for Skilled Program migrants (18%) than the Australian population (7%).

Most of the Skilled Program migrants who earnt $1,300 or more were very proficient in English. More than half of this group spoke English only (55%) and the other 45% spoke English well or very well. The proportions of Skilled Program migrants who didn't speak English well or didn't speak English at all were high for those who earnt low weekly incomes, e.g. negative or nil income (12%), between $250 and $399 per week (10%), between $150 and $249 (9%) and between $1 and $149 (8%).

Year of arrival and employment outcomes

Year of arrival refers to the year of arrival recorded on DIAC's settlement database for clients with a permanent residency visa. For an overseas application, the arrival date is the first arrival date after the visa is granted. For an onshore application, the arrival date is the arrival date immediately prior to the grant (this arrival might have been on a temporary visa).

As length of residency increases, Skilled Program migrants were more likely to be working full-time. The proportion of Skilled Program migrants who were employed full-time was higher for residents who had been living in Australia for a length of time between 4 and 6 years (54%) when compared with recent migrants (48%).

Migrants living in Australia may become more proficient in English as they are exposed to the language in their everyday activities and employment. Migrants who have been living in Australia may have also had more time to build and establish networks that could assist in gaining employment. This is evident in the data as the proportion of Skilled Program migrants who could speak English 'very well' was higher for residents who had been living in Australia for a length of time between 4 and 6 years (40%) when compared with recent migrants (34%).

Volunteer work

Volunteer work is one option for Skilled Program entrants to gain experience in the local job market, which may increase their chances of gaining paid employment. In the twelve months prior to the 2006 Census, 14% of all skilled migrants participated in voluntary work through an organisation or group. By way of comparison, in the 2006 Census, 18% of the Australian population participated in voluntary work.

If a migrant is in full-time employment, then they may have less time available to participate in voluntary work than a migrant in part-time employment or a migrant who is unemployed.

Labour force status by voluntary work participation, Skilled migrants - 15 years and over - 2006
Graph: Labour force status by voluntary work participation, Skilled migrants—15 years and over—2006


The highest proportions of Skilled Program migrants, 15 years and over, who participated in voluntary work through an organisation or group in the twelve months prior to the 2006 Census were in full-time employment (43%), not in the labour force (25%) or employed part-time (21%). The proportion of Skilled Program migrants participating in volunteer work was higher than the proportion not participating in volunteer work for migrants not in the labour force (25% compared with 22%) and those employed part-time (21% compared with 17%). On the other hand, there was a lower proportion of volunteers amongst those employed full-time (43% compared with 52%).

FURTHER INFORMATION

If you have any queries or comments about this article, or you would like to obtain further information about migrant and ethnicity related statistics, please visit the Migrant and Ethnicity Topics @ a Glance Page on the ABS website or contact the National Migrants Statistics Unit directly by email on migrant.statistics.unit@abs.gov.au.

LIST OF REFERENCES

ABS 2005, Australian Statistician’s Statement of Intention.

ABS 2006a, Census Data Enhancement Project: An Update, June 2006, cat. no. 2062.0, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2006b, Discussion Paper: Enhancing the Population Census: Developing a Longitudinal View, 2006, cat. no. 2060.0, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2007, 2006 Census QuickStats: Australia, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2009, Research paper: Assessing the Quality of Linking Migrant Settlement Records to Census Data, 2009, cat. no. 1351.0.55.027, ABS, Canberra.

DIAC 2009, Population Flows: Immigration Aspects 2008-09 Edition.

DIAC Settlement Reporting Facility, viewed 1 July 2010, <http://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/delivering-assistance/settlement-reporting-facility/>.

DIAC website, viewed 1 July 2010, <http://www.immi.gov.au>.

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