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Skill utilisation drives job satisfaction in migrants

Media release

Curtin University researchers have identified stark differences in the way skilled migrants and Australian-born workers view their jobs, with skill utilisation much more likely to affect migrants’ job satisfaction than their local counterparts.

Using a nationally representative sample of Australian workers, the study looked at how job security and skill utilisation influenced job satisfaction for both skilled migrants and locally-born workers.

Dr Amy Tian, from Curtin’s School of Management, said while previous research suggested skilled migrants were often less satisfied with their jobs when compared to Australian-born workers, little was known about why these differences existed.

“For skilled migrants, we found there was a significant positive relationship between job security and job satisfaction for high levels of skill utilisation, whereas there was no significant association between job security and job satisfaction for low levels of skill utilisation,” Dr Tian said.

“On the flipside, skill utilisation did not impact the relationship between job security and job satisfaction for Australian-born workers.”

Dr Tian said skill discounting, whereby migrants were forced to accept jobs beneath their skill level, was largely to blame for poor job satisfaction levels.

“Given the increasing concerns about skill shortages globally, skilled migrants could be employed in jobs that are commensurate with their skills, qualifications and experience gained in their countries of origin, yet the contrary is the case,” Dr Tian said.

“Skilled migrants are often confronted with the attitude that they should accept whatever opportunities they are offered and therefore find themselves performing work that is not equal with the skills and abilities they possess.

“Therefore, when skilled migrants perceive high skill utilisation and high job security, they may be particularly appreciative of their employer and would feel particularly satisfied with their job.”

The study highlighted the need to take a more fine-tuned rather than ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to human resource management strategies and policies for skilled migrants.

“Our study highlights the critical role of HR practices in shaping and promoting migrants’ positive evaluation of their jobs and values they bring to their workplaces, and in turn, their wellbeing at work,” Dr Tian said.

This research was conducted in collaboration with the University of Western Australia.

The paper, Put My Skills to Use? Understanding the Joint Effect of Job Security and Skill Utilisation on Job Satisfaction Between Skilled Migrants and Australian Born Workers in Australia, was published in Social Indicators Research and can be viewed here.