New research conducted by Monash University’s Monash Business School and the University of Melbourne has found dismal employment prospects for refugees and foreigners seeking asylum in Australia in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. In the study, which was published in the Australian Journal of Social Issues, the researchers found that employers' “Australian first” mentality in giving employment opportunities has led to discrimination and unfair treatment towards the refugee groups, including reduction in the number of jobs and Job losses.
15% of the refugees and asylum seekers surveyed by the researchers were unemployed, and another 40% were engaged in casual or short-term employment. The refugees on temporary protection visa or bridging visa were not entitled to JobSeeker or JobKeeper payments.
In interviews with managers from Australian organisations which help in employing and managing them, the managers also observed that stiff and cut-throat competition in the labour market and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to lesser job advertisements and refugees forced to take underpaid and lower-income jobs.
The research team proposed several ideas to improve job possibilities for these groups:
- Permitting permanent residency and citizenship for people seeking asylum - this will mitigate their insecurities and help them in getting employment opportunities. They can also lead a life of dignity and solve the refugee crisis in the host country. This can also help in alleviating Australia’s labour paucity problems.
- Access to healthcare and financial safety - the government should permit temporary visa holders to have access to Medicare to ensure their physical and mental wellbeing.
- Online reskilling and upskilling - reskilling processes and programs should be run for refugees to increase their possibility of getting jobs.
- Quotas for disadvantaged groups - the researchers suggested that the idea of social procurement is to allocate and set aside employment opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalised groups within governments or other organisations.
Diarmuid Cooney-O'Donoghue, lead author from Monash Business School said that refugees are already disadvantaged due to lack of employment opportunities, educational barriers and mental health issues. Adding to the list of woes, they are often underpaid because their home country’s qualifications and education aren’t often acknowledged by the host country. Their vulnerable and economically backward position obstructs them from exercising strong bargaining powers in the labour market.
Acknowledging the state and federal government’s efforts, he mentioned that while in the last few months, Australia has spent billions of dollars to keep the labour market from collapsing, it is time to integrate asylum seekers and other marginalised sections in that effort too.