'Word of mouth' jobs elude ethnic migrants: study

June 4, 2012

University of Melbourne research has found a lack of social networks - and not necessarily racism or poor qualifications - is making life tough for ethnically diverse job seekers.

The study, The Ethnic Penalty: Immigration, Education and the Labour Market, by Dr Reza Hasmath, examined why ethnic minorities and their children struggle to obtain high-paying employment, despite often having a more advanced formal education than the wider population.

Dr Hasmath, from the University’s School of Social and Political Science, said many people learn about work opportunities through ‘word of mouth’.

“Two-thirds of all job openings are found through social networks,” he said.

“This means a person’s ability to obtain job information is tied to the diversity of their acquaintances and friends.  

“But ethnic minorities’ personal contacts tend to come from a narrower range of occupations. As such, they receive less job opening information and are steered towards a smaller group of job opportunities.

“This sets the stage for a continued ethnic penalty.”

The research also found ethnic minorities can suffer from a wider breakdown of trust between their community and the dominant ethnic group.

and employers must establish a minimal level of trust in each other before they can engage in a working relationship,” Dr Hasmath said.

“It is not far fetched to suggest that the decline in trust we are seeing between minorities and non-minorities reduces the chances for ethnic minorities to secure high wage ”.

Dr Hasmath said government intervention could be necessary to level the playing field.

“Public sector employers must be encouraged to strive for employment equity, and there should be real repercussions if the goal is not met,” he said.

“And governments at all levels could provide tax incentives to promote employment equity in the private sector.

“We have a tendency to see this as an equity issue.  While there are certainly merits to this, when we think about it from an investment perspective we can start to see how alarming this situation can be for Australia’s future economic success.”

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3 / 5 (4) Jun 04, 2012
This is really a very tough nut to crack all over the world, not just in Aus.
It's the same old story everywhere, but especially where white people are in the economic driving seats. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is some form of conscious, deliberate racial discrimination on the part of the [white] employers. What it boils down to - in my opinion - is that at the social level, people tend to associate with those whose culture they feel familiar with.
So in the case of whites, they will tend to cluster with whites. For instance, white people in the U.S. will be more likely to strike up conversations with whites from Germany, Ireland, etc. than with not so white looking Mexicans or Chinese who are natives of the U.S.
That's just an observation, no matter how one would like to argue that one is not so inclined.

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