People seeking asylum in Australia face a range of barriers to finding ‘decent employment’, many of which are exacerbated by Federal and State Government policies. This research was commissioned by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) to understand the challenges faced by people seeking asylum with finding employment in Victoria, and to propose practical policy recommendations to improve their employment outcomes and social participation pathways. Data was collected primarily through desktop research, and supplemented by surveys of ASRC program participants (n=59) and employers of people seeking asylum (n=9), along with interviews with ASRC program managers and volunteers (n=3). An economic analysis of ‘targeted employment support’ programs was carried out – including the New South Wales Government’s Refugee Employment Settlement Program (RESP); the Victorian Government’s Jobs Victoria Employment Network (JVEN); the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) Given the Chance for Asylum Seekers (GtCAS) Program and the ASRC Employment Program – to understand the overall economic costs and benefits of each of the programs. This was followed by a qualitative analysis of the survey and interview data.
Survey and interview findings suggest that: over 40 per cent of people seeking asylum felt that the lack of local contacts, friends, or community networks was a key barrier to finding employment; the complexity and ambiguity of the current visa framework creates barriers to accessing work for people seeking asylum in Victoria; people seeking asylum are exposed to discrimination and exploitation in the local labour market; the expectation for people seeking asylum to transition straight into employment and the lack of social and health supports may have a detrimental impact on their settlement; and unemployment is a persistent challenge for people seeking asylum.
The policy analysis suggests that: people seeking asylum in Victoria face a range of barriers to finding decent employment and these are exacerbated by current policies that restrict their access to basic services; whilst the current government-funded programs seem to be helpful in facilitating employment, there are two cohorts of people seeking asylum who are left to ‘fall through the cracks’: those who are most disadvantaged (low-skilled entrants, and those with lower-level English); and those with professional or trades qualifications, who are effectively ‘de-skilled’ upon entering Australia; the outsourcing and marketisation of employment services appear to have disadvantaged people seeking asylum and other marginalised groups. The policy analysis suggests that: (1) a targeted, integrated and holistic program focused on people seeking asylum can fill existing policy and program gaps in addressing employment challenges faced by this group and contribute significantly to the local economy; and (2) collaborative and inclusive strategies and policies – ‘joined-up’ policy thinking and action – are required to reform the macro-conditions that reinforce the exclusion of people seeking asylum from workforce participation and contribution.
SOURCE: Hiruy, K, Walo, M, Abbott, M, Barraket, J & Hutton, R 2019, “Towards an optimal employment strategy for people seeking asylum in Victoria.” Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Melbourne, 2019.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence acknowledges and recognises the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we live and work, and we pay our respects to their Elders both past and present.
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia