The Gendered Nature of Migration: Findings from a National study on female “partner migrants” and their experience of securing employment

Stream: Panel 84 - Gender Politics: Women’s Work and Women at Work 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.00 pm


Government policy aims to attract new migrants to fill skill shortages and increase the pool of talented and qualified people in the workforce. Within the Skilled Stream primary applicants (usually male) must demonstrate they have ‘in demand’ skills. If successful they come to Australia with partners and children. In many cases the female partners arriving under this Stream are qualified professionals. Well educated skilled migrant women also arrive in Australia under the Family Stream to join partners in Australia. These two groups of “partner migrant” women from CALD backgrounds were the focus of this study. Data monitoring their employment outcomes indicates that they generally have much lower labour force participation rates, higher unemployment and lower earnings relative to their skills and qualifications. Drawing upon findings from a qualitative study based on interviews and focus groups with 63 partner migrants from across Australia, this research explored the notion of the trailing spouse and the influence visa status has on partner migrants’ ability to secure employment. Evidence from this study suggests that migration is highly gendered, where priority and resources are given to the male spouse to secure employment. This study concludes that partner migrants are largely hidden from view where their role has shifted from being, in many instances a paid well-educated professional to being re-domesticated as wives, spouses and partners. From an economic and policy perspective, partner migrant women are an underutilised source of human capital in Australia. More support is needed to assist them into employment.


Gerald Onsando (Presenter), AMES Australia
Gerald Onsando recently joined AMES Australia as a Research Officer. Prior to this, Gerald worked on research and evaluation of programs at the Department of Justice and Regulation and on demographic data analysis at the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Gerald’s PhD research focused on resettlement of refugee immigrants in Australia and he has had much involvement with migrant and refugee communities in Brisbane, and served as a member of the Queensland African Community Council Management Committee.
Gerald has published on resettlement of refugee immigrants in Australia, mainly in the areas of employment and vocational education and training.