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Research Highlights Migrants Pay Gap in Australia

A report released Wednesday shows migrants are paid less than Australian-born workers.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia, an independent policy advocacy organization, has found migrants often work in jobs beneath their skill levels and can suffer discrimination.

The look into migration highlights missed opportunities for Australia.

The policy group asserts that about $2.64 billion in foregone wages would be unlocked each year if migrants earned comparable salaries to Australian-born workers.

The study found that migrants who have been in Australia for between two to six years earn around 10% less than their locally born counterparts.

The report found the biggest losers were female migrants with a postgraduate degree, who earned on average 31% less than Australian-born women in the workforce with similar qualifications.

The survey’s authors have urged the Canberra government to better recognize the international qualifications of migrants to help address severe skills shortages and to combat discrimination in the workplace.

The committee also said there should be a renewed emphasis on providing better English language tuition to new settlers.

Melinda Cilento, the chief executive of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Wednesday that urgent action is needed.

“What we are finding is that people who come from non-English speaking backgrounds are the ones who are really struggling and that is one of the reasons why when we identify the (pay) gap, we are looking at English language ability,” she said. “It is one of the reasons why we think one of things you need to do is to actually improve English language training for people once they are in Australia.”

There has been no response, so far, from the Labor government in Canberra.

But last December, the government released its migration strategy. It plans to reduce immigration numbers by half within two years, because it believes current levels are unsustainable. The number of international students will be cut, and there will be a greater effort to attract skilled workers from overseas.

In 2022, more than a half-million immigrants came to Australia, up from 170,000 the previous year in a post-COVID surge after the removal of pandemic border closures.

Ministers also plan to crack down on international students who have enrolled at bogus colleges in Australia and have been exploiting the system to work and not study.

Most immigrants to Australia come from India and China.

While Australia seeks to curb the immigration of workers and students, it also has strict refugee policies. For more than a decade, the navy has been ordered to turn away boats carrying asylum seekers trying to reach Australia. Those who evade the authorities are automatically detained until their claims are processed.

Australia grants visas to about 20,000 refugees each year.