Employment Success and Long-Term Aspirations of the First and Second Generation of Recent Refugee Arrivals: Evidence from Australia

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 2:45 PM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Val COLIC-PEISKER , Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia
This paper focuses on the employment and social inclusion of humanitarian arrivals in Australia (for brevity, ‘refugees’ in further text). Previous research shows that refugees, in the context of a sharply skilled-focused Australian immigration program, have the worst employment outcomes of all immigrant categories. They suffer from higher unemployment, as well as under-employment and under-utilisation of their formal qualifications. The employment woes are not always due to a lack of human capital (skills and language proficiency) but often to employment discrimination and channelling of refugees into undesirable ‘employment niches’ where labour shortages continually exist. The paper is based on an initial analysis of a survey of 500 refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Iraq, and Burma, currently settling in Brisbane. The survey asked about current employment experiences and long-term occupational aspirations of recent (with a minimum of one year residence in Australia) refugee arrivals in Australia. In this context we also collect data on the ways in which parents communicate employment aspirations to their children. This collaborative project, funded by the Australian Research Council, started from the premise that appropriate employment is a key to successful settlement and social inclusion of immigrants, and that refugees, in most cases visibly different minorities in the Australian context, are especially vulnerable to social exclusion. As experiences of main Western immigration countries show, this is especially critical in the second immigrant generation. We therefore also explore the intergenerational communication in the refugee family and how it is affected by migration and acculturation in Australia and how this, in turn, may affect the educational and occupational chances of the second generation.