Refugee Council of Australia
Woman holding ladder in shop

Not Working: Experiences of refugees and migrants with Jobactive


De-skilling or upskilling?

A recurring theme in the Fairfield case studies was the feeling that Jobactive providers often failed to recognise their previous qualifications or skills, instead placing them in very low skilled, insecure jobs. Participants emphasised that they wanted to develop themselves through further education and training, but were not presented with such opportunities through Jobactive.

I have a qualification and experience from overseas that can help me to work in Australia, but I don’t have any qualifications in Australia. I am not getting any assistance from my job provider in terms of guiding me to the right way to help me with my qualifications and experience.

— A Syrian refugee, previously a Hospital Laboratory Assistant from Fairfield LGA

As a result of pressures put on jobseekers by Jobactive providers to find work quickly, many refugees and migrants with overseas qualifications end up working in areas outside of their profession or at disproportionately lower skilled jobs. Evidence suggests that 95% of refugees with tertiary educational qualifications from countries outside Australia end up taking jobs in manual labour.

There remains much “to be done to assist humanitarian settlers to enter the Australian labour market and to facilitate their upward mobility”.

The case studies echo a common theme — that pushing humanitarian entrants, refugees and migrants into low-skilled employment does not assist in providing more meaningful job prospects. The capacity for these jobseekers to leave low-paid and low-skilled jobs decreases the longer they remain in those industries, due to loss of original skills and missed opportunities for networking and career progression.

I just finished 510 [hours of] English and want to study hairdressing. Jobactive said that I am job ready and put me on work for the dole. I am only level 2 CSWE and struggle to understand instructions sometimes. JA is pushing me away from my long-term career goals.

— A young migrant from Fairfield LGA

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