Some Australian Immigrants suffering mental health problems

08 August 2012


Skilled immigrant workers who move to Australia but are unable to secure jobs relevant to their skills and qualifications, are after three years, more likely to be depressed, a new study shows.

The study, conducted by the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR), found that between 36 percent and almost 50 percent of 11,450 new migrants surveyed said they did not use their specialist skills or qualifications in their job more than three years after arriving in Australia. Additionally, immigrant workers who were overqualified for their current jobs were more likely to suffer from mental health problems, the study found.

Associate Professor Alison Reid from WAIMR and UWA's School of Population Health said immigrants often took any job when they first arrived to cover the cost of migration. These jobs typically included cleaning, labouring, factory work, driving taxis or waiting in restaurants, even if immigrants were overqualified for the position.

"It takes a while to get skills recognised, but if people are still in those jobs after a period of time, that's when mental health problems such as anxiety disorders can affect them," Reid said.

The study surveyed the immigrants about their mental health after six months, 18 months and three and a half years living in Australia. While they didn't find any major differences in the first two periods, if people had not secured a job using their qualifications by three and a half years, researchers found their mental health declined.

"Skilled migrants are selected for immigration based on criteria such as age, language ability, qualifications and work experience because they are expected to fill gaps in the labour force," Reid said. "However, this study has shown that there is a large under-utilisation of skills among migrant workers to Australia up to three and a half years post migration."

Reid argued that more programs offering employment, training, and mentoring support were needed if immigrants had not found jobs in their field after one year.

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