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Coming to Australia is a dream for every (African) migrant irrespective of your status, for students, the allure of acquiring that world-class education to enhance your chances of employment and academic profile is irresistible, for skilled migrants; the prospect of a better income and employment opportunities is second to none, for us humanitarian migrants; migrating to Australia was never a matter of choice, but a necessity.
The exigency of seeking safety, better healthcare services, employment opportunities and ultimately a better life were compelling factors that determined our migration to Australia. Personally, boarding the flight to Australia marked the beginning of a new life fill with expectations. In some cases, I had set my expectations bar so high and made several promises as if by virtue of coming to Australia everything was promised.
I then believed that if I go to university and obtain a degree there would be a job waiting for me, oblivious of the fact that university degree does not necessarily guarantee employment, or the limited chances of a me (migrant) working in white-collar jobs. Maybe I was mesmerized by the fancy names of my degree rather than the job prospect. Don’t you think it is impressive to call yourself an epidemiologist while on the phone with your friends back home in Africa?
My ignorance about the employment challenges of African graduates in Australia was enlightened after I graduated from university this year, and began looking for a job in my field of study. After numerous applications and rejection notices, I have come to realise that I am just another one of the many African graduates, at least in my opinion, that are either unemployed or unemployed in their field of study. The alarming nature of the problem invoked a curiosity to understand the possible causes. Obviously, being a migrant within itself is a noteworthy contributing factor. Studies have shown that being a migrant within itself is disadvantageous, compared to non-migrant populations, migrants generally report worst outcomes on almost every socio-economic and health indicator. There are arguably many other factors that may explain this problem; such as ill-advised study choices; choosing the wrong degree in terms of job prospect, the socio-economic conditions under which most humanitarian migrants acquire their education; studying and working simultaneously in order to support themselves and family members back home in Africa is common for most African migrants, unfortunately studying and working concurrently (particularly full-time) do derail students’ academic output and eventually impair their employment chances.
In spite of these other contributing factors, I found that the answer to my curiosity lies within the question “why were we brought to Australia” (humanitarian migrants)”?
In my opinion, we were granted visa or brought to Australia to provide service not leadership, no wonder why most Africans work in the caring industries. Some may argue that other Africans work in other industries, true, but these are the exceptions that prove the fact. The fact that only a small proportion of African graduates secure employment in their field of study is an indication of the problem. Why do you think most Africans with qualifications are unemployed in their areas of study? Simple, on top of the fact that unemployment is generally high, we were not brought here to work in those careers, which is why we may find it easier to find job in the caring industries as it is where we belong.
In the absence of a thorough investigation (research) into the magnitude and causes of this problem, the extent to which it affects us or will affect us remains subjective. Nonetheless, there is a pressing need for African graduates (employed or unemployed) to come together and discuss this problem, and identify potential solutions. Maybe we need to make better educational choices, or shift our expectations from seeking employment to creating employment. Whatever the case, we need to act, and we must do so urgently. No problem is insurmountable if we work together. It is time we galvanize our resolve to confront our challenges and not stare it in the eyes while it overwhelms us.