Pilot program assists hundreds of asylum seekers into the workforce: new study

17 August 2017

Our Given the Chance for Asylum Seekers program has assisted hundreds of asylum seekers to find their first jobs in Australia. Supported by a private philanthropist, the program aims to assist asylum seekers with bridging visas living in Melbourne, to get into, and stay in, the workforce. Since its launch, 421 participants have found a job.

Outcomes in 2015–16 look promising, with an overall placement rate of 56%, and a retention rate of 68% of these after six months of employment.

These findings are contained in a new report Giving asylum seekers a chance: insights from a pilot employment program (PDF, 774 KB) by Brotherhood researchers, John van Kooy and Agathe Randrianarisoa, who have evaluated the program’s first phase (financial year 2013–16).

The researchers also point to the program’s value to the wider community, with an unpublished cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Australian and New Zealand School of Government indicating that for every $1 of investment in the program, society receives a return of $1.52 in consumption, taxes paid and reduced welfare expenditure.

The Brotherhood report also finds:

  • Given the Chance stands out as an exception in a landscape of constrained service access and restrictive visa conditions for asylum seekers. Without such programs to act as a ‘bridge’, asylum seekers are at a disadvantage when competing in the mainstream job market. Employment assistance to most bridging and temporary visa holders is limited within the government-funded system, with not-for-profit services having to fill the gaps if resources are available. Immigration policies limit asylum seekers’ workforce participation and potentially distort employer perceptions during recruitment.
  • Many migrants are employed in lower-skilled jobs after arrival in Australia, and may not have their skills and qualifications recognised. Asylum seekers expressed frustration at their inability to find work or be seriously considered by employers without support. They recognised that the spaces for their economic contribution to Australia were ‘narrow’, and many could not fully utilise the skills and experience they had acquired overseas.
  • Under the constrained circumstances in Australia, the Given the Chance program has facilitated significant outcomes for many individual asylum seekers. However, advocacy efforts should continue to address the government policies and employer practices that prevent others from achieving sustainable employment outcomes and economic security, so that their potential to contribute to Australia’s economy and society is not wasted.

Find out more, visit the program page for Given the Chance for Asylum Seekers.

Employers interested in learning more about the program can contact Brian Finnigan: bfinnigan(at)bsl.org.au or 0424 751 920

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