Asian migrants suffer discrimination in Aussie job market: new study

Date: 06/06/2002

Australian employers are discriminating against Asian migrants when hiring staff, according to ground-breaking new research from the University of Western Sydney.

In a first for Australia the study compares unemployment rates between recently arrived Asian and non-Asian migrants taking into consideration their English skills, educational backgrounds, ages and visa categories.

The research project is carried out by Professor Raja Junankar, Associate Professor Paul Satya and Ms Wahida Yasmeen from the School of Economics and Finance at the University of Western Sydney.

The three researchers analysed the data of more than 5,000 Asian and non-Asian migrants who settled in Australia between September 1993 and August 1995. The migrants were interviewed about their success in finding a job six months, one year and two years after their arrival.

According to chief researcher Professor Junankar the most discriminated group is recently arrived Asian migrant men with fluent English skills.

"This group is 15.8% more likely to be unemployed six months after their arrival to Australia compared to non-Asian migrants with a similar grasp of English and controlling for their educational backgrounds, age groups and visa categories."

The study also finds that university educated Asian men are over 11% more likely to be out of a job six months after arriving in Australia compared to non-Asian migrants with university degrees.

On average Asian men suffer 5.9% higher unemployment rates six months after arriving in Australia, 10% one year after arrival and 5.3% two years after arrival compared to non-Asian migrant men with similar backgrounds.

Professor Junankar suggests that several factors could be behind the discrimination of Asian migrant men.

"Employers might not recognise Asian educational qualifications, they might be less comfortable working with an Asian person, or they might feel their customers prefer dealing with non-Asian workers."

Interestingly, Asian women suffer much less discrimination than Asian men.

"Our study finds that Asian females are 2.7% more likely than non-Asian females to be out of a job six months after arriving. But there is no difference in the unemployment rates between Asian and non-Asian migrant women who have been in the country for more than one year," Professor Junankar says.

"This difference could be because Asian women are more willing to accept jobs below their previous occupational status or are more likely to drop out of the labour market if they cannot find work after the first six months.

"Another explanation could be that Asian women might present themselves better to potential employers than men, or because Australian employers feel more comfortable working with Asian women than men"

Professor Junankar is an internationally recognised expert on labour economics and immigration. He has published numerous books and monographs and has worked as a consultant for the European Commission, the Indonesian, New Zealand and Australian governments. He has received research grants from several bodies including the Australian Research Council.

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Mikael Kjaerbye
UWS Media Manager
Ph: 02 9678 7418
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