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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1996  
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Contents >> Education >> Educational Attainment: Migrants and education

Educational Attainment: Migrants and education

49% of recent migrants arrived with post-school qualifications. 60% of them have had their qualifications recognised in Australia.

The skills and educational qualifications that migrants bring with them to Australia represent a considerable contribution to the country's culture and economy1. Current immigration policy explicitly seeks migrants (other than those who are selected on refugee or humanitarian grounds) who are best able to contribute to the economic development of the Australian community2. This represents a change in immigration policy since the immediate post-war period. Immigration at that time was driven by concerns related to defence and the Cold War, and the supply of labour for Australia's expanding manufacturing sector3.

Recognising the value of overseas qualifications relevant to the Australian labour market is a matter of social justice for individual migrants. It is also an important aspect of micro-economic reform in making greatest use of available skills1.


Migrants

Recent migrants in this review are those who arrived in Australia between 1971 and September 1993, aged 18 and over.

Main English speaking countries (MESC) comprise the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, USA New Zealand and Australia.


Educational attainment on arrival
The educational attainment of migrants on arrival often reflects their social background and demographic characteristics. Australia's migrant intake has varied over time by country of origin, age composition and the balance of males and females (see Expanding links with Asia; Australian Social Trends 1994, Birthplaces of Australia's settlers).

Compared to the Australian born population, recent migrants are relatively well educated. 49% of recent migrants arrived with post-school qualifications. In comparison, 41% of Australian born people aged 18-64 had post-school qualifications in 19934. However, the relatively high level of educational attainment of recent migrants on arrival is due partly to the young age structure of the migrant population. Younger people generally have higher levels of educational attainment than older people. Of Australian born people aged 18 or more in June 1993, 40% were aged 18-345 compared to 68% of recent migrants on arrival.

A greater proportion of recent migrants born in the main English speaking countries arrived with post-school qualifications (56%) than of those born in other countries (45%). This may be related to the higher proportion of migrants from other countries who were sponsored by family or arrived as refugees, and did not necessarily require qualifications to migrate to Australia. Among recent migrants from the main English speaking countries, 17% were sponsored by family compared to 38% of migrants from other countries. An additional 8% of migrants from other countries entered as refugees.

Despite a decline over the past two decades in the proportion of the migrant intake who were born in the main English speaking countries, the proportion of recent migrants arriving with post-school qualifications has increased. 43% of migrants arriving in the 1970s had post-school qualifications, compared to 58% of those arriving in the early 1990s.

Of recent migrants who arrived with post-school qualifications, a smaller proportion of those born in the main English speaking countries arrived with a degree (23% compared to 37%), and a greater proportion arrived with vocational qualifications (54% compared to 37%) than those born in other countries.

A greater proportion of male (60%) than female (40%) recent migrants arrived with post-school qualifications. This may be related to the higher proportion of female migrants who were sponsored by family (34%) than male migrants (26%). Of recent migrants born in the main English speaking countries, 68% of men and 45% of women arrived with post-school qualifications. Of migrants born in other countries, 55% of men and 37% of women arrived with post-school qualifications. In comparison, 47% of Australian born men aged 18-64, and 36% of women had post-school qualifications in 19934.

MIGRANTS WHO HAD ARRIVED WITH POST-SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS, 1993


Source: Survey of Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Migrants, Australia 1993 (unpublished data)

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT OF RECENT MIGRANTS ON ARRIVAL, 1993

Born in MESC
Born in other countries
Total
Educational attainment on arrival
%
%
%

Bachelor degree or higher
23.5
37.1
31.1
Undergraduate diploma
8.0
6.9
7.4
Associate diploma
15.0
19.3
17.4
Skilled and basic vocational qualifications
53.5
36.7
44.1
Total with post-school qualifications
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
With post-school qualifications
273.5
350.3
623.8
Without post-school qualifications
210.8
433.5
644.3
Total
484.3
783.8
1,268.1

Source: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Migrants, Australia 1993 (cat. no. 6250.0 and unpublished data)


Recognition of qualifications
Recognition of qualifications affects migrants' chances of success in the labour market. It is also important to ensure that available skills are being fully utilised1.

Formal recognition of qualifications ensures that overseas qualifications are assessed in the context of Australian standards. Recognition of migrants' qualifications is affected by a range of factors including the field of qualification and country in which it was obtained. Migrants' desire to have their qualifications recognised is also a factor. Some qualifications are more readily recognised than others, and the mix of qualifications that migrants arrive with will affect their chances of recognition.

Often migrants have their qualifications recognised by several different types of organisation. Many migrants have their qualifications assessed by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs when applying to migrate to Australia. The National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition (NOOSR) assists the department in making these assessments.

The assessment process also varies depending on the field of qualification and legislation governing professional licensing or registration. These may differ from state to state. Formal recognition of qualifications does not guarantee recognition by employers. However, employers may accept some qualifications without formal recognition, especially if certain skills or qualifications are in short supply.

In 1993, 60% of recent migrants who had arrived with post-school qualifications had their qualifications recognised in Australia. Of migrants whose qualifications were recognised, 41% were recognised primarily by an employer, 29% by a licensing or registration board, and 20% by a union or professional association.

65% of recent migrants who arrived with post-school qualifications in the 1970s had their qualifications recognised compared to 58% of those who arrived in the early 1990s.

Migrants who arrived with post-school qualifications and who were born in the main English speaking countries were more likely than those born in other countries to have their qualifications recognised (73% compared to 49%). This was particularly so in the fields of teaching and education (81% compared to 32%) and health and medicine (83% compared to 49%).

Of recent migrants who arrived with post-school qualifications, men were more likely than women to have their qualifications recognised (76% compared to 70% for those born in the main English speaking countries; and 57% compared to 40% for those born in other countries).

Formal recognition of overseas qualifications does not guarantee success in the labour market. Other barriers to employment may exist, such as lack of local work experience and lack of English language skills.

MIGRANTS WHOSE QUALIFICATIONS HAD BEEN RECOGNISED(a), 1993


(a) Migrants who arrived with post-school qualifications which were recognised in Australia primarily by employers, licensing/registration boards, unions or professional organisations, or other organisations. A small number of migrants had obtained qualifications in Australia before migration.

Source: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Migrants, Australia 1993 (unpublished data)

MIGRANTS WHOSE POST-SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS HAD BEEN RECOGNISED(a), 1993

Born in MESC
Born in other countries
Total
Field of qualification
%
%
%

Teaching, education
80.9
32.5
51.6
Business, administration
63.7
41.7
49.9
Arts, humanities, social sciences
68.4
39.8
53.3
Economics, law
76.9*
46.8
54.2
Mechanical, electrical, automotive and manufacturing trades
74.9
53.3
63.2
Building
78.0
58.0
71.0
Hairdressing, beauty
50.6
28.1*
41.1
Food and hospitality
67.2
48.9
55.3
Health, medicine
82.8
49.3
65.7
Science
84.5
72.8
77.3
Agriculture, horticulture
62.6*
35.6*
48.5
Engineering
73.3
60.7
65.8
Architecture
100.0*
65.4*
79.3
Transport and machinery operations
62.1*
60.8*
61.6
Total
73.5
48.8
59.6
'000
'000
'000
Total
200.9
170.9
371.8

(a) Migrants who arrived with post-school qualifications which were recognised in Australia primarily by employers, licensing/registration boards, unions or professional organisations, or other organisations. A small number of migrants had obtained qualifications in Australia before migration.

Source: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Migrants, Australia 1993 (cat. no. 6250.0 and unpublished data)


Assessment of overseas qualifications

The National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition (NOOSR) was established in the Department of Employment, Education and Training in 1989. NOOSR continued the functions of the former Council on Overseas Professional Qualifications. NOOSR plays a central role in overseeing the recognition of professional, para-professional and technical qualifications gained overseas. A network of expert panels and councils assists NOOSR in making assessments. NOOSR provides educational, occupational and examination assessments, and funds bridging courses. NOOSR also assists the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in assessing the qualifications of prospective migrants overseas6.

Assessments of trade qualifications are made by Trades Recognition Australia (TRA), in the Department of Industrial Relations. TRA provides a skills recognition service to people living permanently in Australia. It also provides a trades skills assessment service across a range of occupational groupings for people seeking to migrate to Australia7.


English language proficiency
English language proficiency affects participation in the labour force, education and access to government services. The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs provides English as a second language (ESL) training to newly arrived adult migrants through the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)2. The Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs provides ESL training to migrant workers through the Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) program, and to jobseekers through the Advanced English for Migrants Program (AEMP)8.

In 1993, 70% of recent migrants born in other than the main English speaking countries spoke English fluently. 24% could not speak English well and 6% did not speak English at all.

Proficiency in English increases the longer migrants have been in Australia. Among recent migrants born in other than the main English speaking countries, 73% of those who arrived in the 1970s spoke English fluently in 1993, compared to 59% of those who arrived in the early 1990s. Changes in the country of origin of migrants born in other than the main English speaking countries since 1970 may also have affected the proportion speaking English fluently.

A greater proportion of male than female recent migrants were fluent English speakers in 1993 (75% compared to 67%).

MIGRANTS BORN IN OTHER THAN MAIN ENGLISH SPEAKING COUNTRIES WHO SPOKE ENGLISH FLUENTLY(a), 1993


(a) Includes people who spoke a language other than English at home but who spoke English well or very well, and those who spoke only English at home.

Source: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Migrants, Australia 1993 (unpublished data)


Post-migration education
Overall, 19% of recent migrants had gained post-school qualifications since arrival in Australia. Migrants who arrived with post-school qualifications were more likely than those who arrived without them to have gained further post-school qualifications since arrival (26% compared to 13%).

Men were more likely to have arrived with post-school qualifications than women, and they were also more likely to have gained post-school qualifications since arrival (22% compared to 17%).

Recent migrants born in the main English speaking countries were more likely to have arrived with post-school qualifications than those born in other countries. They were also more likely to have gained post-school qualifications since arrival. Of recent migrants born in the main English speaking countries, 23% of men and 21% of women had gained post-school qualifications since arrival, compared to 21% of men and 15% of women born in other countries.

Among recent migrants born in other than the main English speaking countries, those who spoke English fluently in 1993 were more likely to have gained post-school qualifications since arrival (23%) than those who did not (4%).

RECENT MIGRANTS HAVING GAINED POST-SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS SINCE ARRIVAL, 1993

Born in MESC
Born in other countries
Total
Educational attainment since arrival
%
%
%

Had gained post-school qualifications
22.3
17.6
19.4
Had not gained post-school qualifications
77.7
82.4
80.6
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
Total
484.3
783.8
1,268.1

Source: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Migrants, Australia 1993 (unpublished data)


Education and labour force status
In 1993, the labour force participation rate of recent migrants who had arrived with post-school qualifications was higher than that of those who had arrived without them (81% compared to 59%).

Recent migrants, regardless of birthplace, who arrived without post-school qualifications had a higher unemployment rate in 1993 than those who arrived with post-school qualifications (16% compared to 11%).

Recent migrants who were born in the main English speaking countries experienced higher labour force participation rates and lower unemployment rates in 1993 than migrants born in other countries. The lower labour force participation rate for migrants born in other countries may be related to the higher proportion of this group who are female. Overall, women have a lower labour force participation rate than men (see Work - National summary tables).

Among recent migrants born in other than the main English speaking countries, rates of unemployment and labour force participation are related to fluency in English. Those who spoke English fluently experienced a lower rate of unemployment in 1993 (15%) than those who did not speak English well (31%), or at all (55%). The labour force participation rate in 1993 was higher for recent migrants who spoke English fluently (74%) than for those who did not speak English well (51%), or at all (19%).

The longer migrants had been resident in Australia, generally the less likely they were to have been unemployed in 1993. Of recent migrants born in the main English speaking countries, 6% of those who arrived in the 1970s were unemployed, compared to 9% of those who arrived in the early 1990s. Of migrants born in other countries, 13% of those who arrived in the 1970s were unemployed, compared to 46% of those who arrived in the early 1990s.

In 1993, when unemployed people aged 18-64 were asked about their main difficulty in finding work, 18% of Australian born people, 14% of people born in the main English speaking countries, and 13% of people born in other countries stated that their main difficulty was a lack of necessary schooling, training, skills or experience. An additional 27% of people born in other than the main English speaking countries stated that their main difficulty in finding work related to problems with language or ethnic background9.

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT OF RECENT MIGRANTS ON ARRIVAL AND LABOUR FORCE STATUS, 1993

Labour force participation rate
Unemployment rate


Born in MESC
Born in other countries
Total
Born in MESC
Born in other countries
Total
Educational attainment on arrival
%
%
%
%
%
%

With post-school qualifications
86.5
77.6
81.5
6.2
16.0
11.4
Without post-school qualifications
64.1
55.9
58.6
8.8
20.7
16.5
Total
76.7
65.6
69.8
7.1
18.3
13.6

Source: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Migrants, Australia 1993 (unpublished data)

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE AMONG RECENT MIGRANTS, 1993


Source: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Migrants, Australia (unpublished data)


Endnotes
1 Advisory Council on Multicultural Affairs (1988) Towards a national agenda for a multicultural Australia: a discussion paper.

2 Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Annual Report 1994-95.

3 Birrell, R. and Birrell, T. (1987) An Issue of People: Population and Australian Society Longman Cheshire, Melbourne.

4 Transition from Education to Work, May 1993 (unpublished data).

5 Estimated Resident Population, June 1995 (unpublished data).

6 Department of Employment, Education and Training (1994) Issues and Options Paper on the Overseas Skills Recognition Process and Related Labour Market Issues Unpublished Government Paper.

7 Department of Industrial Relations Annual Report 1994-95.

8 Department of Employment, Education and Training Annual Report 1994-95.

9 Training and Education Experience, Australia 1993 (unpublished data).


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