20/08/2016 2:05 PM AEST | Updated 20/08/2016 2:33 PM AEST

Experienced, Keen And Out Of Work: Skilled Migration In Australia

Everyone has had a taxi driver who was a doctor in his or her home country.

Getty Images
Australia is not a land of opportunities for skilled migrants.

In countries like Russia, China and Sri Lanka, professionals see the Australian government is listing their occupation on a demand list for skilled migration.

Australia, a country of great opportunities and lifestyle, specifically wants their exact skills set. They apply for migration, weighing this chance at a new life against the ties that will be cut with their family, culture and motherland.

Upon arrival in Australia, they soon find there's little chance they'll work in their field. In fact, they'll be lucky if they get some casual shifts in food preparation or security as they struggle to make sense of the Australian job market and come up against gender disadvantage and unexpected prejudice.

This is the experience painted by a new study into skilled migrants from non-English-Speaking backgrounds.

What is skilled migration?

These programs use points systems to select immigrants according to a mix of skill, education, language levels, age and occupational experience.

Hinterhaus Productions
Skilled migrants need to meet criteria that changes based on a country's needs.

A skilled migration program was first adopted by Australia in 1973 and updated in 1996. At the time of this study, the Australian government listed desirable occupations on the Migration Occupations in Demand List, or the Skilled Occupations List.

Independent skilled migrants will arrive in Australia with no job offer or a connection to an employer.

Through interviews with 22 skilled migrants living in Brisbane, Griffith University lecturer Susan Ressia said she came to see they had shared expectations, and also shared disappointments.

"I think in terms of their expectations, they certainly felt they were coming to a country that had a lot of opportunity for them, given they were well qualified and had all the right skills they felt Australia was seeking," Ressia said.

"They've often picked up their family and made the move and there's this whole idea and expectation and hope that they'll find a job of similar opportunity or better but the literature shows a good work outcome is unlikely."

Among those she interviewed, Hayat, 28 was a civil engineer in Iraq. Now she gets casual childcare shifts.

George, 34 was a mining engineer in Albania. Now he's a roadworks labourer.

Jasmin, 27, has a bachelor of industrial microbiology and teaching experience in India. Initially she was a casual in food service, then unemployed.

Getty Images
Some skilled laborers had no idea help was available to them.

The study showed women were far less likely to find work matched to their skills set than men.

"Sometimes, it was because of their cultural role -- that women were looking after young families so men were the breadwinner," Ressia said.

"Often skilled migrants know nobody so they don't have that support network of friends and family to help.

"Hayat was a skilled engineer, and she found it extremely difficult to find work in Australia. She had a very young family as well which I think compounded her issues.

She told me 'I feel like I'm losing my career, losing my identity'. That was very emotional and heart wrenching.Susan Ressia

"She told me she felt like she was losing skills. She couldn't keep up to date with the new technology, new work in the area of civil engineering. She told me 'I feel like I'm losing my career, losing my identity'. That was a very emotional and heart wrenching interview -- talking to another woman and feeling her pain."

While the 22 searched for work, some sought qualifications or further study, many volunteered and did work placement or accepted any job with the hopes it would teach them about Australian workplaces.

"George from Albania told me he could walk into an office and speak to the head manager and basically get a job face to face. Here he had to go through all professional steps of the labour market."

Others had no idea assistance was available, or child care services.

Ressia said the research showed skilled migrants were being underutilised.

"One participant said to me, 'is there a database the government could put together and show where there are the jobs [that match the skills they're asking for]'.

"Hand on my heart, I felt that skilled migrants' opportunities weren't coming to fruition. I thought, OK what is it we can do about it? First of all, we've identified the problem."