Labour market outcomes worse for migrants than Aussie born

By Leith van Onselen

Last year’s Productivity Commission Migrant Intake Australia report found that while primary skilled migrants have slightly better labour market outcomes than the Australian born population in terms of median incomes, labour force participation, and unemployment rates, secondary skilled visas, and indeed all other forms of migrants, have worse outcomes:

Today, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its Characteristics of Recent Migrants report, which has also found that migrants have generally worse labour market outcomes than the Australian born population.

The first table below shows that the lion’s share of recent migrants are in the ‘permanent’ (588,200) and ‘temporary’ (662,900) streams, whereas ‘Australian citizens’ (360,200) make up the minority:

However, both unemployment and labour force participation are worse than Australian born residents for all categories of migrants (and indeed migrants overall) with the exception of those with ‘Australian citizenship’ (see far right columns below):

So much for the notion that migrants have greater labour market attachment than the incumbent population.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist
Latest posts by Unconventional Economist (see all)


  1. Having finished a round of interviews, this isn’t surprising. We rejected several immigrants before interview or in first two minutes due to poor English, and found that the recent immigrants were less likely to respond to the criteria in the advertisement (probably also due to poor English), and another handful were rejected that way.
    No factory jobs these days, so apart from employers who don’t care about the way their business appears to the outside world, poor English is going to be a real barrier.

    • Random PunterMEMBER

      Can confirm same, having also recently finished a round of interviews for a new graduate position. I mean, there’s not much you can do about your English in a face to face situation, but why should the cover letters and resumes be riddled with errors? It’s as though they didn’t even know how poor their English was. Baffling.

      • It’s as though they didn’t even know how poor their English was

        They probably don’t – they’re comparing their English to the others in their family, and the others from their own community out here with them, while I’m wondering how someone on a tele-conference in another part of the world will understand a single word they say as I try to get them to speak up and repeat everything.

    • Do you bother to conduct phone interviews?

      Why not look at what school the candidates went to?

      A lot of job ads in Hong Kong actually demand that the candidates graduated from a Hong Kong school.

      If you buy a house in NSW now, you will have to show proof of citizenship if you do not want to pay a higher land tax. So much for your opposition to charging people $35 per day for a train ticket if they do not have a Medicare card.

      • Sure, we use phone interviews, depending on the position. Talking about two positions with different hiring processes, this isn’t the forum for a detailed evaluation of the relative merits of those processes. Many of the candidates were rejected based on poor English in resume/ cover letter, so wouldn’t have reached phone interview.

        re: $35/ day. My objection is based on enforceability, and the concern that it will lead to me paying more for travel. I never objected based on Medicare card, only on passport. I still think it’s a solution in search of a problem, though, and doesn’t do much to address any of the reasons that migrants are here, such as our government’s extreme reluctance to fund higher ed, and hence extreme attachment to the idea that selling higher ed to o/s students can pay for Australian students.

    • A solution looking for a problem?

      That is what was said when the laser beam was invented.

      The problem is overcrowded trains. And a great chunk of foreigners here are on $10/hour – thus pay no income tax at all but use taxpayer funded services like railways.

      Foreigners are here because Japan does not let them in. Nor do Iceland and Norway.

      Funnily enough, the unemployment rate in Britain has come down after the Tories finally cracked down on low-wage immigration from outside the EU.

      • The problem is not over crowded trains – the problem is that the Commonwealth government wants a high migrant intake . A ministerial order with a number of PRs noticeably lower than 190k, coupled with a plan to reduce higher ed dependence on dollars from O/S students fixes the problem instantly – no other measure does squat.

      • StatSailor – high immigration leads to higher GDP, which allows for the creation of more debt. Of course this debt is spread over stagnant or lower incomes (unless you are one of the plutocrats making money off it) and the standard of living for the local middle class decreases.

        Look up the elephant curve – it explains why populism is rising in Western politics. The middle class aren’t as gullible as the plutocrats think – I’d wager they were even willing to sacrifice some standard of living so that countries like China and India could improve. I think when we all look back historically, however, it will be agreed the straw that broke the globalism camel’s back was the US bailout in 2008 – it’s when it became common knowledge that the system protected the plutocrats and the middle class was suffering more for them than some poor Chinese who wanted to buy their own house.

    • Yeah. There’s a long history of foreign born engineers on the EA website complaining about how difficult it is to find work here and wondering why this is so when they are so well qualified. These complaints are often written in mangled, tortured, ungrammatical, poorly spelled gibberish and it’s plain to everyone but them what the problem is. It’s odd how someone with enough intellectual capacity to obtain an engineering degree can’t understand that communication skills that work on the street or in a pub don’t cut it in the laboratory or a customer’s office.

      Who would hire an engineer or other professional who couldn’t write a bid proposal, or a technical report, or a user manual, or readable comments in source code? Not me.

    • I am saying that immigration can be curbed at the state level.

      We know that the ALP and LNP refuse to have a federal anti-corruption commission and refuse to cut immigration.

      So NSW putting a 2% land tax on foreigners is ok. But raising the price of train tickets to $35/day – unless the passenger has a Medicare card – gives you sleepless nights.

      • How do you enforce that? Why wouldn’t you get a random homeless person with a Medicare card to buy your monthly ticket for you?

        Papers please?

    • Rather than jumping to a negative MB conclusion about ‘immigrants’, what does this say about selection and recruitment processes? I suppose it’s not the point, nor is the fact that many competent Australian candidates leave for greener pastures?

      Australians via this website are coming across as a bunch whining losers, it’s how an American described Australians, who have become like the US deplorables…

      Why would the best, let alone merely competent, immigrants consider Australia in the first place, if comments here are anything to go by?

      • No good reason ever for the best and brightest to consider Australia and doubly so after more than three years of currency depreciation and lower than inflation wages growth.

      • Andrew, at what point does whining become a movement and action? Most whining doesn’t amount to much – it’s like the mainstream news these days, pointless, biased bitch sessions – but eventually true words resonate and lead to results.

        Is it wrong for any country to protect it’s sovereignty and the sovereignty of it’s own citizens first? Is it wrong for a society to realise that cultural homogeneity is required for stability and enforce that? The West is waking up, finally – I personally think it will be too late and cultural decline is now unavoidable but I also think we are going to be in for a messy century as we try to correct the errors of the last 30 years.

      • The question is whether the government is acting in the interests of its citizens or in the interests of the top 1% or in the interests of rich people everywhere. No one objects to the immigration of top talent, but Leith’s graphs show that that is hardly the case for most of the people that we import. The genuinely talented would amount to a few thousand or tens of thousands at the most.

        Flooding the labour market with large numbers of people depresses wages and drives up housing costs, as Mexico is discovering with the return of illegal immigrants from the US.

        See also the Bank of England report that found wage depression in occupations popular with immigrants.

        Of course, anyone who objects to more congestion (because the government can’t keep up with infrastructure), having their wages undercut, or paying two or three times as much for housing is a whiner and probably a racist as well.

  2. I wouldn’t call it a myth, so much as an out-of-date fact. The intake rate didn’t just double post-Howard, it became much less discriminating. Some forms of discrimination are legitimate, and a prospective migrant’s ability to engage with the local labour market is one example.

    • That’s all true, and I’d guess that the end result will be some number of migrants who’ve never worked a day in Australia returning home with bitter stories about how fcked it is here. Which is fair enough, but also unnecessary.
      Before then the intake will become less discriminating as our ability to pay for the best continues to decline.

  3. Said it before, say it again, we should restrict our immigration to only those people with skills we really need. Everyone else, sorry, we just don’t see the point of having you.

    • There are various ways to catch them out:

      Charge $35 a day for a train ticket unless they have a Medicare card. ?

      Charge $50k/year for a 457 visa – thus ensuring that the minimum salary on the visa is $60k.

      Mandate that 51% of foreign students have to be female – it is a tsunami of men at the moment and when the men get a Medicare card, they import an unskilled spouse from the 3rd world.

      • mild colonial

        Looking at the figures im surprised to see its more women than men. Is that explained by women coming here plus men coming here plus men bringing a wife. Got it.

  4. kiwikarynMEMBER

    Probably because the official stats dont count all the migrants employed in the cash economy, which is what half of them come here for anyway. And to buy houses.
    The rest of them are acting as daigous and dont declare their millions in income as income. Who tracks what people do with their cans of infant formula purchased from Coles?

    • Which is why charging $35/day for a train ticket – unless the passenger has a Medicare card – would be so sweet! ?

      Working here for $10/hour cash? Pay up or go back!

  5. Australia’s definition of skilled labour these days is making sandwiches. STEM being a growing industry and full of wealthy prospects is a myth when is made available to a savvy Bangladeshi developer who can charge themselves out at $5/hr. Or…maybe try your luck with a tech job at let’s say, Telstra. Good luck with that. Good luck with your globalised future mankind. Im pretty sure Australia has enough of its own who can hold up a lollipop sign without the need to flood the joint with immigrants. That’s of course unless the government wants to flood us with people who are willing to wipe our asses in aged care facilities for pittance as our population of baby boomers ages. Oh how lovely it will be to see the arse fall out of the property market.