Document Type

Working Paper


This study of Vietnamese social mobility in Australia arose out of a concern to establish whether Vietnamese migrants have been significantly disadvantaged in making a new life in Australian society. It is not the first study to take up this theme. Much has already been written both in the academic literature, in Government reports, and in the press on various aspects of Vietnamese migration and settlement. This research conducted for the Office of Multicultural Affairs is however one of the first major studies to examine the settlement process of the Vietnamese-Australian population over the last 10-12 years, with particular reference to the issue of social mobility.

Put very simply, the major objective of this study is to determine how well the Vietnamese have fared in securing employment, and the opportunity to re-construct their lives after the turmoils of war, disruption and refugee life. The concern is not primarily with the initial experiences of adjustment in Australia but with the longer term process of settlement. Looking at the situation 12 to 14 years after the first refugee arrival, the aim is to assess how much mobility has been achieved, what resources have been brought to bear in assisting the settlement process and what major obstacles may lie in its way.

The specific research objectives of this study are as follows:- (1) To provide an account of the social mobility experience of Vietnamese-born immigrants in New South Wales and South Australia in the last 15 years. (2) To identify obstacles to mobility for this target population. (3) To distinguish between short-term adjustment difficulties and longer-term obstacles to social mobility for the target population. (4) To compare and contrast Vietnamese and ethnic-Chinese mobility chances. (5) To provide a series of case-studies of social mobility and obstacles to mobility. Amongst the groups targetted in this way are factory workers, professionals, small business people, unemployed and ethnic Chinese.

As a result of this research, the study addresses a number of policy issues relevant to Vietnamese refugees. These include English as a second language support programs, labour market and employment programs, recognition of overseas qualifications, and access to general educational programs.