Document Type

Working Paper


During the past decade a substantial amount of research has documented how immigrants fare in the Australian labour market. The general findings are that immigrants from English speaking countries face few problems in transferring their skills to the Australian labour market and are able to adjust well to their new environment, but this does not apply to immigrants from non-English speaking countries. Thus it has become conventional to describe and categorise the immigrant experience in terms of the dichotomy English speaking and non-English speaking background, and the acronym NESB has been created to denote the latter group.

However, even though one common factor applies to all NESB immigrants, the dichotomy hides a considerable diversity. NESB immigrants come from over 100 countries, have widely varying educational achievements and have been working in a vast range of jobs prior to migration. Labour market outcomes within this heterogenous group can, therefore, be expected to differ.

Certain groups have been observed to do less well than others, notably immigrants from Vietnam, Lebanon and Malta. All these groups are large enough to be noted in the statistics, and the indications are that they do distinctly worse than others in the Australian labour market. Their numbers are also large enough to matter for both settlement and immigration policies. If such large numbers of immigrants fare relatively poorly, it is suggestive of settlement and related policies not being very effective in overcoming the difficulties that large groups of immigrants face. In respect of immigration policy, the apparent lack of success of large and visible groups, cannot but have an affect in shaping views about the size and composition of immigration.

It is therefore important to understand why certain groups, such as Vietnamese, Lebanese and Maltese immigrants have done less well than other comparable groups. The objective of this study is to contribute towards such an understanding.