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3416.0 - Perspectives on Migrants, 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/03/2010   
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JOB SEARCH EXPERIENCE OF MIGRANTS

On this page:
INTRODUCTION
PART 1: UNEMPLOYED
PART 2: JOB STARTERS
FURTHER INFORMATION
LIST OF REFERENCES
DATA TABLES


INTRODUCTION

For most migrants, finding a job is a crucial step in their successful settlement into Australia. By finding employment, migrants establish financial independence, contribute their skills to Australia's productive effort and integrate into society more easily (DIAC, 2002). One aspect of this transition into the labour force, is a migrant's employment-related job search experience. Recently released data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provides insight into the job search experiences of both the unemployed and those recently employed. The Survey of Job Search Experience 2009 (JSE09), an annual supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS), was released on 21 December 2009.

This article based on the JSE09 data considers the job search experiences of migrants (persons born overseas) in seeking work and provides a comparison to the job experiences of Australian born persons in the labour force. In addition, the discussion also provides comparison amongst migrant groups, broadly defined in terms of their country of birth and their year of arrival into Australia.

The Job Search Experience survey collected data for two reference groups in the labour force as at July 2009; those 'unemployed' (people aged 15 and over who were unemployed and seeking work) and 'Job starters' (people aged 15 and over who were employed and had started their current job in the previous twelve months).

This article is divided into two sections to reflect discussion about these groups.

  • Part 1: 'Unemployed' - the discussion explores prior work experience, reasons for ceasing their last job, occupation of last job and level of qualification, duration of current period of unemployment, all steps taken to find work as well as the main difficulties in finding work.
  • Part 2: 'Job starters' - recently employed persons; the discussion explores prior labour market experience, occupation of new job and level of qualification, duration of looking for work before being offered current job and all steps taken to attain work.
Scope and Definitions

The scope of this survey includes all usual residents of Australia (excluding persons in very remote areas). Overseas born persons are defined as usual residents if they intend staying in Australia for a period of 12 months or more, regardless of whether they go overseas on holidays during that period.

The overseas born population is classified by a person's country of birth (COB) and year of arrival (YOA). Country of birth groups have been categorised as MESC and non-MESC. MESC is used to describe people migrating from main English-speaking countries. Significant numbers of migrants that come from a MESC country (comprising of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States of America) are likely to speak English. Non-MESC describes people originating from countries where languages other than English are likely to be spoken by migrants. It is important to note that being from a non-main English-speaking country does not imply a lack of proficiency in English.

Year of arrival is the year a person first arrived into Australia from another country, with the intention of staying for one year or more, with either a permanent or temporary visa. In this article, year of arrival groups have been categorised for analysis purposes into two discrete groups; 'long term migrants' - those arriving prior to 2001 and 'recent migrants' - those arriving in the period 2001 until the survey was conducted in July 2009.
PART 1: UNEMPLOYED

Like all new entrants to the labour force, it is likely that there will be some risk of unemployment for migrants (DIAC, 2004). The Job Search Experience survey obtains a range of information about the unemployed person seeking work including: prior work experience; the reason for ceasing the last job; the duration of current unemployment; job search steps and the difficulties they encountered in finding work.

In July 2009, there were 599,600 unemployed persons of which 33% (196,400) were overseas born. Of the overseas born unemployed population, almost three-quarters (73% or 142,600 persons) were born in non-MESC whilst 27% (53,400 persons) were born in MESC. Recent migrants accounted for 42% (83,100 persons) of the overseas born unemployed and 58% (113,300 persons) were long term migrants. As a general rule, unemployment rates are relatively high initially for most migrant groups but fall substantially with increased duration of the migrant's residency (DIAC, Fact sheet 14). Long term migrants have more opportunities, relative to recent arrivals, to experience and understand Australian workplace culture - gaining information to assist in the transition to the workplace.

For both groups (MESC and non-MESC) the largest group of unemployed (33% and 45% respectively) are those having arrived in the most recent period, from 2001 to the survey date in 2009. This is in line with the large number of recent migrants arriving on permanent or temporary visas entering the labour force and looking for work.

OVERSEAS BORN UNEMPLOYED PERSONS,
Country of birth by year of arrival - July 2009
Graph: Graph 1 Overseas born unemployed persons, Country of birth by year of arrival, July 2009

Prior work experience

Some new migrant arrivals have considerable work experience and qualifications and are able to make the transition to working in the Australian labour force quickly, while others experience greater challenges in gaining employment (DIAC, 2007). The skills and labour market knowledge acquired from previous overseas labour market experiences may assist in the transition to employment within Australia. In addition, the reasons for migration (specifically the visa category for immigration e.g. skilled) and the support services provided upon arrival may also be contributing factors.

The survey defines prior work experience as whether a person had ever held a job (lasting two weeks or more) with consideration to the recency of the job. If a person had no experience, they are defined as 'never worked' and hence they were looking for their 'first job'.

In July 2009 almost one in six (17%) of all unemployed persons had never worked and were looking for their first job. A further 67% of the unemployed had prior work experience in the last 2 years whilst 16% of the unemployed had previously worked, with their last job longer than 2 years ago. (Table 1)

While the proportions relating to prior experience were similar for the unemployed Australian born and overseas born, there were some significant differences between the migrant sub-populations.

OVERSEAS BORN UNEMPLOYED PERSONS,
Prior work experience - July 2009
Graph: Graph 2 Overseas born unemployed persons, Prior work experience, July 2009


For those born in MESC, a higher proportion reported that they had previously worked (92%) compared with the proportion of those persons born in non-MESC (79%). Consequently, this equates to 30,700 persons born in non-MESC (87% of the total unemployed overseas born population who had never worked) were looking for their first job in July 2009.

With regards to the year in which migrants arrived into Australia, 22,600 unemployed recent arrivals (64% of the total unemployed overseas born population who had never worked) were looking for their first job in July 2009.
Country of birth by year of arrival

The migrant population can be analysed by combining a migrant's country of birth and year of arrival. The majority of unemployed overseas born are from non-MESC (142,600 persons); the largest group being long term non-MESC migrants (40% of total unemployed overseas born population or 77,800 persons). Recent migrants from MESC represent the smallest group of the total unemployed overseas born population (9% or 17,800 persons).

First job searchers

One of the most important steps towards economic independence is entry into the labour force. Similar proportions of unemployed persons born in Australia and born overseas (17% and 18% respectively) have never worked before and were looking for their first job. The majority of unemployed overseas born first job searchers are from non-MESC (30,800 persons); the largest group being recent arrival non-MESC migrants (57% of total unemployed overseas born first job population or 19,900 persons). (Table 2)Reasons for ceasing previous job

In July 2009, two-thirds (67% or 399,800 persons) of the total unemployed population had previously worked and had held their last job in previous two years. This group was asked the reason for ceasing their previous job. Based on their response to 'whether they had left the job voluntarily or not', they were classified as either a Job leaver or a Job loser.

As a Job leaver, the reasons reported for ceasing the job were; unsatisfactory work arrangements, holiday job/returned to studies or other. About one in three unemployed overseas born reported ceasing their job voluntarily as job leavers, a similar proportion to the Australian born unemployed persons (32% and 31% respectively).

As a Job loser, the reasons were reported as; laid off or retrenched, job was temporary or seasonal, own ill health or disability, or own business closed down for economic reasons. Of those persons who had their last job less than two years ago, similar proportions of the Australian born unemployed and born overseas unemployed were job losers (69% and 68% respectively).

There were discernible differences between the migrant groups. For unemployed job losers, the proportion of non-MESC recent arrivals was lower levels (46%) than both MESC recent arrivals (70%) and the Australian born job losers (69%). (Table 3)Occupation of last job

Almost one quarter (24%) of unemployed persons who had previously worked and had held a job in the previous two years, reported the occupation of their last job as Labourer. For Australian born unemployed, Technicians and trades workers (16%) and Sales workers (16%) were also common occupation groups reported as last job occupations. For overseas born unemployed persons whilst Labourers was the most common occupation group (23%), the proportion of unemployed reporting their last occupation as Professionals (18%) was higher than for Australian born unemployed (9%).

In terms of country of birth, a higher proportion of unemployed persons born in non-MESC reported that the occupation of their last job (held in the previous two years) was Professional than for those persons born in MESC (21% and 12% respectively). (Table 4)Highest level of non-school qualification

In July 2009, 56% (333,200) of unemployed people were without a non-school qualification. The proportion of unemployed persons with a non-school qualification varied according to a person's country of birth. A larger proportion of unemployed overseas born persons (56%) reported having a non-school qualification than Australian born unemployed persons (39%). The most common qualification for the migrant population was a Bachelor degree or above (27%), whereas for Australian born unemployed the most common reported qualification was the Certificate III/IV (17%). (Table 5)

For the overseas born unemployed, the proportion reporting a Bachelor degree or above for those born in non-MESC (33%) and recent arrival migrants (41%) was higher than for Australian born unemployed (8%).

Additionally, the number of unemployed non-MESC persons (46,400) and the number of recent arrival migrants (33,700 persons) with a Bachelor degree or above, outnumbered those Australian born unemployed with a Bachelor degree or above (30,600 persons).

Interestingly, for recent arrival migrants the number of unemployed with a bachelor degree or above is larger than those recent arrivals without a non-school qualification (33,700 and 29,600 persons respectively). Duration of current period of unemployment

The majority of unemployed people had been unemployed for less than one year (i.e. short term unemployed) and, similar proportions were observed for both Australians and overseas born persons (84% and 85% respectively).

Within the overseas born group, similar levels of long term unemployment (i.e. 1 year and over) were recorded for persons from MESC (12%) and non-MESC (17%).

For recent arrivals to Australia, however, the proportion of long term unemployed were at significantly lower rates (8%) than longer term migrants (21%). This may reflect the recent reshaping of the selection criteria for new migrants aimed at increasing the levels and suitability of skilled migrants and more targeted visa entry conditions. (DIAC, Fact sheet 4)

The duration of unemployment for the Australian born unemployed population was a median period of unemployment of 17 weeks, while those born overseas had median of 14 weeks. There were discernible differences amongst the migrant populations. For those born in MESC the duration was 11 weeks, five weeks less than for those born in non-MESC. For recent arrivals, the median duration of unemployment was shortest at 10 weeks of unemployment, and for those arriving in earlier years (prior to 2001), the median duration of unemployment was longest at 19 weeks. (Table 6)

UNEMPLOYED PERSONS,
Duration of current period of unemployment - Median - July 2009
Graph: Graph 3 Unemployed persons, Duration of current period of unemployment, Median, July 2009

Steps taken to find work

Unemployed persons were asked about the steps taken in their search for work. Responses were recorded for all steps taken, and so people may appear in more than one category.

Overall, the most common steps unemployed people took to find work were 'wrote, phoned or applied in person to an employer for work', 'looked at advertisements for jobs in a newspaper' and 'looked at advertisements for jobs on the Internet'. The top ranking steps taken were common across all the populations groups.

Persons from both country of birth groups MESC and non-MESC showed similar patterns of steps taken to find jobs.

OVERSEAS BORN UNEMPLOYED PERSONS,
Selected steps taken to find work(a) - By country of birth - July 2009
Graph: Graph 4 Overseas born unemployed persons, Selected steps taken to find work, By country of birth, July 2009


There were discernible differences amongst the year of arrival migrant populations. Those unemployed long term migrants tended to have higher usage of all steps including; employment services provided by agencies such as Centrelink and Job Network, compared to recent migrants. This could be an expected outcome as this group would have had a greater length of time settling into their new country of residence, building knowledge of the available support services.

OVERSEAS BORN UNEMPLOYED PERSONS,
Selected steps taken to find work(a) - By year of arrival - July 2009
Graph: Graph 5 Overseas born unemployed persons, Selected steps taken to find work, By year of arrival, July 2009

Difficulties in finding work

Unemployed persons were asked about the difficulties they encountered in finding work during their current period of unemployment. The information was recorded as the main difficulty and also as all difficulties and therefore people may appear in multiple categories.

The main difficulty for both overseas and Australian born populations was 'too many applicants for available job' (14% and 15%), followed by 'no vacancies in line of work' (10% and 11%).

For migrants another commonly reported main difficulty was 'insufficient work experience' (10%). 'Language difficulties' (4%) and 'difficulties because of ethnic background' were not commonly cited as a main difficulty of the overseas born unemployed. About one in twelve (8%) of unemployed overseas born people reported no difficulties at all, even though they were still unemployed.

The main difficulty reported by those born in MESC was 'no vacancies in line of work' (14%) whereas for non-MESC it was reported as 'too many applicants for available jobs' (15%).

Other main difficulties experienced by those born in MESC were; 'too many applicants for available jobs' (10%), and 'no vacancies at all' (10%) and 'own ill health or disability' (10%). This compares with persons born in non-MESC who reported 'insufficient work experience' (13%) followed by 'no vacancies in line of work' (9%) and 'no vacancies at all' (7%).

When looking at all difficulties reported, a higher proportion (8%) of overseas born people reported 'language difficulties' than those who reported 'difficulties because of ethnic background' (4%).

Similar levels (92%) of persons born overseas and Australian born experienced at least one difficulty finding work. Similarly the proportions of persons born in MESC (91%) and persons born in non-MESC (92%) reported experiencing at least one difficulty were almost identical, although there were differences amongst the main difficulties experienced.

UNEMPLOYED PERSONS,
Main difficulty in finding work - By country of birth - July 2009
Graph: Graph 6 Unemployed persons, Main difficulty in finding work, By country of birth, July 2009


Similar proportions of recent migrants and long term migrants reported experiencing at least one difficulty in finding work (93% and 91% respectively). However recent arrivals reported some different difficulties, in terms of finding employment, than long term migrants.

The most commonly reported main difficulty in finding work for recent migrants was 'insufficient work experience' (17%). The next most common difficulties reported were 'too many applicants for available jobs' (15%) and 'no vacancies in line of work' (10%). Notably 'language difficulties' (8%) was reported by recent migrants as a main difficulty whereas for long term migrants it was not a commonly cited main difficulty (2%).

The most commonly identified difficulties for long term migrants were 'too many applicants for available jobs' (13%) followed closely by 'no vacancies in line of work' (11%), 'own ill health and disability' (10%) and 'no vacancies at all' (10%).

UNEMPLOYED PERSONS,
Main difficulty in finding work - By year of arrival - July 2009
Graph: Graph 7 Unemployed persons, Main difficulty in finding work, By year of arrival, July 2009


PART 2: JOB STARTERS (started employment in current job during the previous 12 months)

At July 2009, there were a total of 1.3 million employed persons aged 15 years and over who started their current job (lasting for 2 or more weeks) in the previous 12 months. These job starters represented about 1 in 8 of the total employed population. Nearly three-quarters (74% or 994,500) were Australian-born with the balance (26% or 348,800 persons) born overseas.

Of the overseas born job starters, slightly more were born in non-MESC (55% or 190,400 persons) whilst MESC job starters accounted for 45% (158,400 persons). In terms of year of arrival, the split was almost even with 51% long term migrants (178,600 persons) and recent migrants accounted for 49% (170,200 persons).

The survey classifies employed persons by employment type on the basis of their current job according to the following categories:
  • employees (with or without paid leave entitlements)
  • owner managers of incorporated enterprises (OMIEs)
  • owner managers of unincorporated enterprises or
  • contributing family workers.

Please refer to the Glossary for further details of these definitions.

This article focusses solely on employees as survey data relating to job starters excludes owner managers of incorporated enterprises (OMIEs). Information on first job starters who started work as an owner manager or contributing family worker in a family business was not collected in JSE survey.Employee Job Starters

The majority of job starters (89%) were 'employees'. The balance (11% or 145,800) had started work in their own business (incorporated and unincorporated) or as contributing family members (those who work without pay in an economic enterprise operated by a relative).

Of the overseas born employee job starter population the split between country of birth groups showed that just over half (55%) persons were born in non-MESC and just under half (45%) were from MESC. Recent migrants accounted for 52% of the overseas born job starters and 48% had arrived prior to 2001.

Historical patterns of immigration saw large numbers of MESC migrants and families (mainly from United Kingdom and Europe) emigrating under economic and family focussed migration (DIAC, Fact sheet 4). Recent migration policy has promoted economic-related migration with increasing numbers of skilled migrants visas being issued as the number of migrants from both China and India grows (ABS, 2007). For both groups (MESC and non-MESC) the majority of job starters (42% and 55% respectively) are those having arrived in the period from 2001 to the survey date in 2009.

OVERSEAS BORN JOB STARTERS,
Country of birth by year of arrival - July 2009
Graph: Graph 8 Overseas born job starters, Country of birth by year of arrival, July 2009

Prior work experience

One of the factors that may assist with a migrant's transition into the Australian labour force is the set of skills and knowledge gained from previous work-related experiences in the labour force, either within Australia or their previous country of residence.

Job starters can be classified into three broad groups based on their previous experience in the labour market and are categorised as follows:
  • first job starters - their current job was the first job they had ever held
  • out of work - they had worked before but were out of work before starting their current job
  • working - they had been working and changed employers.

Please note that those job starters classified as 'first job' or 'out of work' were not necessarily unemployed prior to starting their current job but rather may have been outside the labour force.

At July 2009, there were an estimated 1.2 million job starters (excluding OMIEs). About 9% of all job starters had started their first job, 39% had been out of work whilst the majority (52% or 622,200) had already been working (e.g. they changed employer in the previous 12 months). (Table 7)

While the proportions of persons reporting prior work experience were generally similar for both Australian born and overseas born job starters, there were some significant differences when considering their status before starting the new job. A higher proportion of Australian born job starters (54%) changed employers to start the current job, relative to overseas born job starters (47%).

Other observable differences of prior work experience for recently employed job starters were between the migrant sub-populations. In all migrant groups the majority of job starters had previous labour market experience.

OVERSEAS BORN JOB STARTERS,
Prior work experience - July 2009
Graph: Graph 9 Overseas born job starters, Prior work experience, July 2009


A higher proportion of non-MESC migrants were starting their first job (17%) compared with the proportion of those migrants born in MESC (3%) and Australian born job starters (9%). This equates to 27,800 persons from non-MESC starting their first job in the 12 months to July 2009 or 89% of the overseas born population starting their first job.

Interestingly, of those job starters who had worked previously, the proportion that changed employers to start their current job was lower for non-MESC migrants (44%) compared to Australian born persons (54%).

In considering the year of arrival, 24,400 recent migrants reported starting their first job in the 12 months to July 2009 (78% of the overseas born population starting their first job). Country of birth by year of arrival

The job starter overseas born population when considered by both country of birth and then year of arrival, shows that the number of job starters were generally evenly distributed across all COB groups. The largest group of job starters being recent arrival non-MESC migrants 94,400 persons (31% of total employed overseas born population).

First job starters

One of the key measures of successful settlement of migrants is their entry into the labour market and for some migrants this may be their first experience of obtaining a job. The data shows similar levels for Australian born and overseas born job starters starting their first job (9% and 10% respectively). However, when both country of birth and year of arrival are taken into consideration for migrants, a substantial proportion of first job starters are non-MESC recent arrivals (70% or 21,900 persons overseas born job starters).Job starter occupations

The composition of job starter occupations shows that Professionals were the largest occupation group of new starters across all population groups. For most migrant groups (excluding long term migrants) the second most common reported occupation was Labourers, whereas for both Australian born job starters and long term migrants, the second largest occupation group was Clerical and administrative workers. (Table 9)

Highest level of non-school qualification

In July 2009, more than half (58%) of all job starters held a non-school qualification, with the largest group holding a Bachelor degree or above (296,200 persons). A higher proportion of overseas born job starters held the highest level of non-school qualification (Bachelor degree or above) than Australian born job starters (38% and 20% respectively).

All migrant population groups had higher proportions of job starters with non-school qualifications than Australian born job starters. Of this population group the majority held Bachelor degree or above qualifications. (Table 10)Duration of looking for work

The length of time taken for migrants to successfully enter the labour force is one of the factors that contributes to the overall success of settlement into Australian society.

Job starters were asked to report the number of weeks they were looking for work before being offered their current job. For employed people who had worked before, this includes any time they were looking for work before leaving their previous employer.

Many new job starters considered that they did not spend time looking for work at all prior to commencing their new job (32%). For those who did spend time looking for work, over a third of job starters (37%) had been looking for less than 8 weeks. More than a quarter (28%) had been looking for work for longer than 8 weeks but less than one year before commencing their current job. (Table 11)

A higher proportion of persons from MESC (30%) reportedly did not look for work prior to starting their current new job compared with the proportion of persons born in non-MESC (22%). For those overseas born job starters who did look for work, the proportion of those spending between 8 weeks and under 1 year looking for work before being offered work, was higher for those born in non-MESC (37%) than MESC (24%).

Higher proportions of long term migrants (46%) looked for work between 1 week and under 8 weeks before being offered their current job compared with recent migrants (33%).Steps taken to find work

Job starters who approached employers (936,400 persons) were asked about the steps they had taken during their search for work. The most commonly reported step by all employees was 'wrote, phoned or applied in person to an employer for work'. A higher proportion of overseas born job starters reported they answered an advertisement for a job on the Internet (47%) compared with Australian born job starters (35%).

For overseas born, persons from both country of birth groups showed similar patterns of steps taken to find jobs, however, those from non-MESC tended to have higher reported levels of 'answering an advertisement for a job on the Internet' and 'contacting friends or relatives'.

OVERSEAS BORN JOB STARTERS,
Selected steps taken to attain work(a) - By country of birth - July 2009
Graph: Graph 10 Overseas born job starters, Selected steps taken to attain work, By country of birth, July 2009


Recent migrants tended to report higher levels for the top three ranked steps; 'wrote, phoned or applied in person to an employer for a job', 'answered an advertisement for a job in a Internet', and 'contacting friends or relatives'.

OVERSEAS BORN JOB STARTERS,
Selected steps taken to attain work(a) - By year of arrival - July 2009
Graph: Graph 11 Overseas born job starters, Selected steps taken to attain work, By year of arrival, July 2009

FURTHER INFORMATION

The data cubes relating to this article are available to download free of charge from the Downloads tab of this product on the ABS website.

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 Theme Page on the ABS website or contact the National Migrants Statistics Unit directly by email on migrant.statistics.unit@abs.gov.au.

For further information about Job Search Experience survey see Job Search Experience, Australia, Jul 2009 (cat. no. 6222.0).


LIST OF REFERENCES

ABS 2007, Australian Social Trends 2007, cat no 4102.0, Migration, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2009, Job Search Experience Survey, Australia, Jul 2009 cat. no. 6222.0, ABS, Canberra.

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) 2002, Settlement Experiences of New Migrants 2002.

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) 2004, The Changing Labour Force Experience of New Migrants 2004.

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) 2007, Settlement Trends and Needs of New Arrivals 2007.

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) Fact sheet 4.

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) Fact sheet 14.


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