Australia is likely to remain an attractive destination for independent skilled migrants but the nation needs to harness the skills and experience of everyone, including those from overseas, according to a new report.

Not everyone who arrives in the country gets a job that uses their skills in the best possible way, says the report form the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre.

(Sergey Nivens/​

It found, for example, that more than half of surveyed skilled migrants are working in lower skilled jobs in Western Australia than before they migrated. It says that the underutilisation of professional migrant skills remained a critical issue for the entire country.

'Australia has a long history of using migrants to fill skills gaps and labour shortages, but those skilled migrants face a range of barriers to both gaining employment and working in jobs that are in line with their qualifications and experience,' said co-author Professor Jaya Dantas from the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine at Curtin University.

According to a survey of 508 skilled migrants even though 53.1% indicated they had less-skilled jobs here than before they migrated, more than 60% of surveyed participants reported finding their occupation meaningful while 14% reported experiencing discrimination and racism because of their migrant background.

'Skilled migrants who are unable to find employment in their chosen occupation result in skills wastage, which can lead to being unable to support their families, economic hardship and, in some cases, potentially becoming a drain on government resources,' Professor Dantas explained.

Some of the examples of skills wastage included a former engineer now working in Western Australia as a technician, a vocational school teacher turned cleaner and packer, a geologist working in aged care and a mechanical engineer employed as a security officer.

As a result of the research, proposed changes have been recommended to Australia's skilled migration framework to help skilled migrants, employers, industry and government departments.

'Australia is likely to remain an attractive destination for independent skilled migrants so it's important this framework can be used to prevent skills wastage and ensure the attraction and retention of skilled migrants and their families to WA,' Dantas pointed out.

The report calls for changes to be made to make settling in Australia easier for new migrants and for the development of national, state and regional strategies to support skilled migrants' transition into the workforce and their new country.

'If we are to fully realise our economic potential and productivity, it is imperative for Australia to harness the skills and experience of everyone, including our migrant population,' said Professor Alan Duncan, director of the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre.

'Diversity and wide ranging life experiences provide new ideas and innovations for businesses and a cultural richness for our society, and this research will assist government in understanding the value of migrants becoming immersed in all facets of Australian life,' he added.

The research also found that barriers include language and an unwillingness by Australian employers to hire migrants due to their qualifications not being recognised. It points out that skills requirements are different in Australia, which force migrants into low skilled jobs and having to undergo lengthy licensing and training processes.