The majority of international graduates who chose to pursue Australia’s post-study work visa secure full-time work, however, less than half end up working in a role related to their field of study, according to a new report.
The Impacts of post-study work rights policy in Australia report released by Deakin University, which surveyed over 1,150 current and former temporary graduate visa holders over the course of three years, found its introduction in 2013 has had mixed outcomes.
“There is a likelihood they will take on the job that is at the lower entry level”
“The study shows that the post-study work rights policy has achieved some of its key intended goals,” the report said.
“However, the gap between policy intention, international students’ expectations and the Australian labour market has been one of the primary reasons hampering the effectiveness of the policy.”
The report, authored by Ly Tran, Mark Rahimi and George Tan, found 81% of past and current visa holders had found either casual, part-time or full-time work, however, only 49% were doing so within their field.
The figures also worsened for current 457 visa holders, with 42% in full-time employment, with 14% working full-time in a role unrelated to their field of study. Only 42% of current visa holders were working in some capacity within their field.
“The majority of them are participating in the workforce… however what is more concerning is the nature and the status of the job they’re doing,” Tran said.
“There are a pool of highly educated graduates who are really wanting to have a job, and that means there is a likelihood they will take on the job that is at the lower entry-level, really underpaid or underemployed for their education.”
Speaking with The PIE News, Tran said one of the reasons graduates were working outside their field was because of cost imperatives associated with choosing to take up their post-study work rights.
“When they undertake their study in Australia, they have allocated funds in order to cover their period of study,” she said.
“But now that they stay on their post-study work visa… they need to cover the cost of living post-graduation in the host country, which is much more expensive than in their home country. Also, they need a job in order to accumulate their work experience to achieve their long-term career goals.”
According to the report, more than half of those working outside their field were employed in either retail, hospitality or education and training.
“The gap between policy intention, [and] international students’ expectations [is] hampering the effectiveness of the policy
Tran said both retail and hospitality were somewhat easier to find work within, however, low employer understanding of post-study work rights created barriers for other fields, except education and training.
“Most international students who work in education and training mentioned it is a sector where employers understand their study work rights,” she said.
“It is a sector where employers understand their study work rights. They know the system, they know the nature of the visa… and they have confidence in employing international graduates.”
Because of the lack of employer understanding around post-study work, Tran said international graduates needed to do more work to explain their rights, however, the time limit of the visa, two to four years, was a concern for those considering hiring students.
Among its recommendations, the report said government and universities needed to have clearer communication with employers to explain post-study work, as well as an option to renew or extend the visa.
“It is crucial for the international education sector, universities and related stakeholders to have specific campaigns, as well as flexible and practical approaches to align employers’ needs and international graduates’ strengths,” the report said.
Despite the barrier, the report found 66% of respondents were satisfied with PSW as graduates wanted to stay around longer, however, there was a clear need for improvement, as 76% said having access to work after graduation was important to their decision making.
Tran said the findings were relevant to all destinations, particularly the UK, which recently announced the reintroduction of post-study work.
She added while she believed the decision would impact on Australia’s ability to recruit students, any destination that could demonstrate ongoing support for graduates and satisfactory outcomes will be able to position themselves better within the market.
A report undertaken by Education New Zealand in mid-2019 also found substantial barriers in employers’ understanding of PSWR.