Skilled migrants move from WA as boom fades
Summary: Naveed Zia was one of an army of tens of thousands of skilled migrants who arrived in Western Australia from foreign lands in an attempt to cash in on the state’s resources boom.....
But like many others, the Pakistan-born engineer found himself doing a lower-skilled job than before he migrated, largely because his arrival in 2014 coincided with an economic downturn from which the state has yet to recover.
Mr Zia has since been forced to move to NSW, where he has found work as an engineer in the mining industry — a job he says “aligns perfectly” with his skills.
He is part of the brain drain of professionals leaving WA in pursuit of better paying jobs. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show a massive decline in net overseas migration into WA — from 52,000 a year in 2013 to just 12,000 now.
According to a major study released yesterday, more than half of the skilled migrants who have remained in WA are, like Mr Zia, forced to take lesser jobs than before they migrated.
The study unearthed numerous examples of “skills wastage”, including a vocational schoolteacher working as cleaner, a geologist employed in aged care and a mechanical engineer who took a job as a security guard. However, it also found some examples of migrants progressing to a higher skills level, including a teacher who had become a deputy principal and a former student now running an accounting firm.
The authors of the study, by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, said the under-utilisation of professional migrants’ skills was a critical issue for the country.
“Australia has a long history of using migrants to fill skills gaps and labour shortages, but those skilled migrants face a range of barriers to both gaining employment and working in jobs that are in line with their qualifications and experience,” said Curtin University academic Jaya Dantas.
According to the survey, 53 per cent of migrants said they had lower-skilled jobs than before they arrived. More than 60 per cent, however, reported finding their occupation meaningful.
The survey found that 14 per cent of participants reported experiencing discrimination and racism.
The research also found that the underemployment of skilled migrants contributed to health and wellbeing issues both at work and in the home, including feeling unfulfilled and undervalued.
Mr Zia said moving to Australia had been a much bigger challenge than he expected.
“I was hoping to find a suitable job (in WA) but that dream didn’t come true,” he said. “The challenges are something you don’t get told before coming here.”