What it’s like finding a job when you’re seeking asylum

May 10, 2022

Connections and a network can help you when finding a job, but when you’re new to a country and seeking asylum you may not have this to rely on.

Unemployment support for people seeking asylum

In Australia, people seeking asylum do not have a financial safety net from the Federal Government. Unemployment benefits allow a person who is looking for work to be able to feed themselves and pay the rent; they are then able to focus on the search for a job. Without Federal Government financial assistance, people seeking asylum may struggle to feed or house themselves while they look for work.

What carries people seeking asylum through is their courage, resilience, resourcefulness, and often, help from the employment team at Sydney’s Asylum Seekers Centre. Read the story of ‘Andrew’, and how the ASC supported him when he was seeking employment. 

In Australia, people seeking asylum do not receive financial support when they are finding a job.

“My Uber driver has a PhD”

It’s a common scenario: a well-educated, highly-skilled person finds that they must suddenly leave their home country so that they are not in danger of persecution. However, their qualifications are not recognised in their destination country.

The priority becomes “find a source of income, and find it fast”, and people seeking asylum will often take employment that they are overqualified for. This does solve the problem of putting food on the table, and can be a step toward longer-term goals. With the right support it can be possible for them to obtain employment in a role they are better suited for. The added bonus is that Australia benefits more appropriately from their skillset.

Even so, many people seeking asylum are keen to get back into the workforce, finding opportunities to rebuild even in the face of harsh barriers. For instance, a woman supported by the Asylum Seekers Centre was a nurse in her home country and managed a unit in a hospital. Now she’s working as a cleaner while she finds a way to have her qualifications recognised in Australia. She speaks powerfully about why she is happy to have a job.

Starting over: what it’s like to look for employment when seeking asylum

LinkedIn recently added a feature that celebrates a gap in our CV, where we can choose to list a career break, and attribute it to, among others, parenting, bereavement, professional development, a gap year, or relocation.

Seeking asylum can cause a break in a person’s CV that is hard to explain. Discussing their situation can be dangerous and can lead to further trauma. 

People seeking asylum find they have gone from a life where they had a network, to finding they have a ‘network of one’, and that one is often a team member from the Asylum Seekers Centre who can vouch for their punctuality, who knows they turn up well dressed and ready for action.

That referee and connection is invaluable, and can be the reason people seeking asylum are offered a position by an organisation.

Learn more about how Australian businesses can employ people seeking asylum

How we can help people find employment while they are seeking asylum?

The Asylum Seekers Centre has a team of people dedicated to helping people seeking asylum ‘learn the ropes’ when it comes to finding employment in Australia including:

  • helping people create their CV
  • demystifying contracts, awards and entitlements
  • understanding superannuation
  • supproting confidence, persistence and resilience
  • helping with pre-employment checks, vaccinations and certifications
  • practice interviews
  • understanding Australian professional culture.

How does finding employment make a difference in the life of a person who is seeking asylum? 

As well as the immediate benefits of being able to buy food and pay rent, employment brings other benefits. Once they have employment people are able to think beyond the basics and start to re-build their networks, save some money, practise their English language skills, mentor others and be recognised for the contribution they bring to our country.

There is a great capacity in the Australian business community to hire candidates who are seeking asylum. Find out more about how your organisation can benefit from the strength and resilience people seeking asylum bring


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