Job Market Struggles for Migrants during and after COVID-19 – Sikh Australian Support for Family Violence (SASFV)
Quick Exit “If it is not safe for you to look at this site and you need to leave it quickly, click Quick Exit. If you are in immediate danger, please call 000 (Australian Emergency Number)”
October 23, 2020

Job Market Struggles for Migrants during and after COVID-19

by Priya Suman

The COVID-19 pandemic and the transmission control measures it has necessitated have abruptly halted the movement of people that normally characterises our interconnected world. The implications of this are particularly profound  for migrants, who rely on working away from home to support themselves, their families, and their communities. Many members of migrant communities are now living and working in conditions that put them at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19. The pandemic and subsequent stagnation of migratory workers is also affecting critical sectors like agriculture, where labour shortages are looming.

Governments around the world have been taking action to protect people’s lives and livelihoods in response, but thus far the unique challenges of migrants and their families have been addressed in too few cases. Ensuring that the voices and experiences of migrants are included in policy responses can help protect this particularly vulnerable group during the crisis. It is also smart economics, by protecting migrants we are limiting their need to travel in search for work, and so there is a reduction in the risk of transmission for the entire population while also sustaining a source of labour that will be critical to economic recovery post COVID-19.

The struggles of migrant workers is a familiar subject for me, both professionally and personally. I arrived in Australia in December 2014 and despite having an education and 5 years of professional experience, I had to start from scratch. I completed a Certificate Course for Overseas Qualified professionals from Box Hill TAFE in 2015 and after continuous effort and hard work, I finally secured a job at Woolworths which helped me develop my communication skills and learn Australian slang. As a result, I was then able to pursue employment in my professional field of Human Resources.Even today, anyone who comes to Australia needs to overcome language, cultural and societal barriers to finally land their first job. Since COVID-19, the job market has been very volatile, my field of expertise has given me a particular insight to this, I can see the number of applications per position have significantly risen increasing job market competitiveness significantly, and as a result candidates have started doubting their capabilities due to the sheer number of unsuccessful outcomes.

Based on my experience and knowledge of the HR and recruitment sector, the following tips may be useful for migrants who are looking to make the best of this time when searching for work. 

  • It is a tough job market for newcomers but upskilling is strongly recommended by taking advantage of free TAFE courses to improve one’s English skills and employability. If English is not a candidate’s native language, being able to demonstrate highly efficient written and verbal communication skills may help.
  • Successful candidates are those who can adapt to the new COVID-19 work environment as the world of work gets more agile and nimbler. As Australia increasingly moves to Telehealth and digital engagement, people who have worked in countries like the UK, the US or parts of the EU where online interactions are more established may appeal to organisations that are making that transition.
  • Jobseekers must be flexible to short-term contracts in this job market. Some overseas call centres have been incapacitated by outbreaks, there are opportunities for short-term workers as Australian businesses rapidly transition to set up onshore call centres to fill the gap.
  • Jobseekers must focus their energy on job searching, not only alone at home but finding networks to connect with others for support. Seek out support and advice from industry professionals who know the sector you are hoping to break into.
  • Jobseekers need to be proactive, apply often, and put the effort in to follow up. Contacting the employer prior to applying to clarify any aspects of the role makes you look keen and will help you stick in the employers mind. If you get another unsuccessful outcome, follow up and request feedback on your application, it never hurts to get feedback on how you went.
  • Jobseekers volunteer with a local NGO (Non-Government Organisations) to improve their skills and knowledge, as well as gain local experience.

Despite the harsh reality that individuals may not secure roles in the current job market, there are opportunities on the other side of the pandemic for those who are job-ready, so focus on upskilling and refining your application skills and you will be ready when an opportunity arises.