Journal Article

Employment Niches for Recent Refugees: Segmented Labour Market in Twenty-first Century Australia

Val Colic-Peisker and Farida Tilbury

in Journal of Refugee Studies

Volume 19, issue 2, pages 203-229
Published in print June 2006 | ISSN: 0951-6328
Published online March 2006 | e-ISSN: 1471-6925 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jrs/fej016
Employment Niches for Recent Refugees: Segmented Labour Market in Twenty-first Century Australia

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  • Human Rights and Immigration
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A survey of three refugee groups (ex-Yugoslavs, black Africans and people from the Middle East) in Western Australia indicates that the recent humanitarian arrivals are concentrated in labour market niches such as cleaning services, care of the aged, meat processing, taxi driving, security and building. Apart from the building industry, these employment niches are situated in the ‘secondary labour market’ comprising low-status and low-paid jobs that locals avoid. This article identifies several interrelated mechanisms through which the recent Australian refugee intake has been relegated to undesirable jobs: non-recognition of qualifications as a systemic barrier, discrimination on the basis of race and cultural difference by employers, ‘ethnic-path integration’ and the lack of mainstream social networks that could assist in the job search, and the recent ‘regional sponsored migration scheme’ through which the government tries to address the shortage of low-skilled labour in depopulating country areas. The data show massive loss of occupational status among our respondents and confirm the existence of the segmented labour market, where racially and culturally visible migrants are allocated the bottom jobs regardless of their ‘human capital’. Changes in the nature of the segmented labour market in the increasingly mobile global workforce are analysed. Some of these insights are drawn from two other research projects on Bosnian and Afghan refugees in Australia undertaken by the authors.

Keywords: refugees; labour market discrimination; Australia

Journal Article.  12033 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration ; Human Geography ; International Relations ; Aid and Relief Programmes ; Refugee Studies

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