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Labour Force Participation of Migrants
LABOUR MARKET OUTCOMES
In November 2004, the civilian population of Australia aged 15 years and over was 15.7 million people and almost three-quarters (72% or 11.4 million people) were born in Australia. The remaining 28% were born overseas (4.3 million people). Migrants accounted for 9% (1.4 million people) of the Australian population aged 15 years and over.
The age structure of both migrants and other overseas born differs from the age structure of those born in Australia. When adjusted to remove the effects of these different age structures, migrants had a lower labour force participation rate (62%) than people born in Australia (67%). The labour force participation rate for other overseas born (61%) was also lower than for Australian-born.
The age standardised unemployment rate was much higher for migrants (6.2%) than for people born in Australia (4.9%). Migrants tend to fare better in the labour market the longer they are in Australia. Other overseas born had a lower unemployment rate (4.3%) than people born in Australia (4.9%). Other overseas born are a diverse group including migrants who arrived in Australia before 1985, as well as migrants who have arrived since 1985 and were less than 15 years old on arrival. This group might be expected to have similar characteristics to the Australian born population, given their length of time in Australia or involvement in the Australian education system.
SELECTED LABOUR FORCE INDICATORS OF PEOPLE AGED 15 YEARS AND OVER — November 2004
MIGRANT CHARACTERISTICS AND LABOUR MARKET OUTCOMES
Just under half of migrants were men (46%) as at November 2004, which was similar to the sex composition of people born in Australia, 49% of whom are men.
Migrant men had a similar age standardised labour force participation rate (74%) to Australian-born men (75%). Migrant women's age standardised labour force participation (52%) was lower than Australian-born women (60%), and much lower than migrant men. The comparatively low levels of labour force participation among migrant women may in part reflect their lower levels of English proficiency and labour market experience prior to arrival in Australia.
Age standardised unemployment rates were lower for migrant men (5.8%) than migrant women (6.6%). Both of these rates were higher than for Australian-born men and women (4.9% for both populations).
The following discussion compares the age profile of migrants and people born in Australia, and examines migrants' labour force participation patterns by age group. For this reason, labour force participation rates have not been age standardised in the age discussion below.
The migrant population has a younger age structure compared with people born in Australia, with a higher proportion of migrants in the age group 25–54 years. The younger age structure of migrants in part reflects the definition of migrants used in this article, which focuses on those arriving in Australia between 1985 and 2004 thereby limiting numbers in older age groups. In addition, migrants applying to come to Australia under the Skill Stream are required to be under 45 years at the time they apply.
In November 2004, 80% of migrants were aged 25–54 years, compared with 54% of Australian-born. The labour force participation rate for migrants aged 25–54 years was 77%, lower than that for Australian-born in the same age group (83%).
Migrants' labour force participation by age group is similar to the pattern for people born in Australia. Young migrant men and women had relatively low participation rates compared with older migrants. Men's participation increased when they reached 20–24 years of age and remained relatively stable through to 55–59 years, after which it declined. Migrant women's participation showed a small peak among women aged 25–29, a trough at the prime child rearing ages of 30–39 years and then another peak between 40–49 years. Migrant women's labour force participation declined from 50–54 years onwards.
LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION RATES — November 2004
Migrants and Australian-born people had similar occupation profiles. Professionals, Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers, Associate professionals and Tradepersons and related workers are the four most common occupation categories for both population groups. A higher proportion (24%) of employed migrants were Professionals at November 2004, compared with 18% of people born in Australia. Many of these professionals would have come to Australia under the Skill Stream migration program which targets professionals and skilled migrants.
OCCUPATIONS OF EMPLOYED PERSONS — November 2004
...LABOUR FORCE INVOLVEMENT PRIOR TO ARRIVAL
Almost two-thirds (64%) of migrants had held a job in the country they lived in prior to migrating to Australia. A higher proportion of migrant men held a job prior to arrival in Australia than migrant women (74% compared with 56%). Migrants who had held a job had a higher age standardised labour force participation rate (71%) than those who did not have a job before arrival (50%).
Similarly, sub-groups of migrants with high levels of employment prior to migration also had high levels of labour force participation. These include those proficient in English, people aged 35–54 years, men and Skill Stream migrants.
...QUALIFICATIONS PRIOR TO ARRIVAL
While nearly half (49%) of migrants had obtained a non-school qualification prior to arrival in Australia, more recently arrived migrants and Skill Stream migrants were more likely to hold non-school qualifications. For example, 57% of recently arrived migrants (i.e. those that arrived between 2000 and 2004) and 71% of Skill Stream migrants had non-school qualifications on arrival. Relevant skills (including qualifications) is one of the key criteria for the Migration Program's
Migrants who had obtained non-school qualifications prior to arrival had better labour market outcomes than migrants without these qualifications. The age standardised labour force participation rate of migrants who had obtained non-school qualifications prior to arrival (71%) was higher than the rate for those without qualifications on arrival (56%).
…VISA TYPE AND PERIOD OF ARRIVAL IN AUSTRALIA
Migrants' labour force participation rates vary with period of arrival and tend to be higher among those more recently arrived. Migrants arriving between 1995 and 2004 had a higher age standardised labour force participation rate (60%) than those arriving between 1985 and 1994 (51%).
Skill Stream migrants tend to have better labour market outcomes than other migrants. The higher rates of labour force participation among more recent migrants is consistent with the steady increase in the intake of migrants under the Migration Program's Skill Stream since the mid 1990s. Principal applicant migrants in the Skill Stream (i.e. the family member for whom the eligibility to migrate was determined), generally have previous work experience, non-school qualifications and are proficient in English.
At November 2004, the age standardised labour force participation rate for Skill Stream migrants (66%) was slightly below the labour force participation rate for people born in Australia (67%) but was much higher than the participation rate for migrants who arrived in Australia on a family visa (51%). Skill Stream migrants also experienced lower levels of unemployment. The age standardised unemployment rate for Skill Stream migrants (3.0%) was lower than unemployment rates for migrants arriving on family visas (9.2%) as well as Australian-born people (4.9%).
The longer migrants have lived in Australia the less likely they are to be unemployed. Age standardised unemployment rates were highest among migrants arriving between 2000 and 2004 (9.0%). The longer the period since arrival, the more likely migrants have obtained educational qualifications, improved their English proficiency and developed knowledge of the labour market.
SELECTED LABOUR FORCE INDICATORS OF MIGRANTS — November 2004
Being able to speak English well is a major factor for migrants in seeking employment. Migrants born in non-main English speaking countries comprised 68% of the total migrant population, or 932,200 migrants, in November 2004. Of these, almost three quarters (73%) were proficient in English, with a higher proportion of migrant men proficient in English than migrant women (77% compared with 73%). Migrants born in main English speaking countries had a higher age standardised labour force participation rate (72%) than migrants who were proficient in English and were born in non-main English speaking countries (66%). Those born in non-main English speaking countries with lower levels of English proficiency also had lower levels of labour force participation (37%).
It is a requirement that Skill Stream principal applicants are proficient in English. There is no requirement for migrants who arrive under the Family Stream or Humanitarian Program to be proficient in English. Most (90%) of migrants from non-main English speaking countries who arrived under the Skill Stream reported that they spoke English well. This figure was 62% for those who arrived under the Family Stream and 50% for those who arrived under the Humanitarian Program.
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006, 'Labour market outcomes of migrants', Australian Labour Market Statistics, cat. no. 6105.0, ABS, Canberra.