• What is the Billion Dollar Benefit? 

    The Billion Dollar Benefit refers to the huge economic potential we could realise if skilled refugees and migrants worked in their fields of expertise. One in four permanent skilled migrants work in jobs beneath their skill level in Australia. This cost the economy $1.25 billion in lost wages alone from 2013-2018. This isn’t just holding back refugees and migrants; it is holding back our economy. For example, $5 billion could be added to the economy each year by easing occupational licensing. Reducing employment barriers holding back newcomers would help close critical skills gaps while adding billions to the economy. It’s a win-win-win scenario. 

  • What is the Billion Dollar Benefit campaign?  

    The Billion Dollar Benefit campaign is a movement of everyday people and organisations committed to reducing employment barriers so skilled refugees and migrants can achieve their full economic potential in Australia. We are a wide-ranging advocacy coalition – spanning employers, unions, peak bodies, research institutions and NGOs – united in our mission to see newcomers be given a fair go to build skilled careers in this country. 

  • What is the campaign calling for?  

    Our vision is for refugees and migrants to be given a chance to use their professional skills, experience and qualifications to build lives that are productive and fulfilling. We are calling on the Australian Government to work with employers, unions, NGOs and all levels of government to implement five key actions by 2025:

    1. Fix the broken skills and qualifications recognition system
    2. Strengthen protections for migrant workers
    3. Review the right to work for people on temporary visas
    4. Scale cross-sector partnerships for employment solutions and pathways 
    5. Reform English language requirements so they are fit-for-purpose

    Implementing these actions is good for newcomers, good for business, and good for Australia. It’s a win-win-win.

  • How did you come up with the five recommended actions?

    The five key actions to unleash refugee and migrant talent are based on the views of more than 50 experts who attended the Refugee and Migrant Skills and Jobs Summit held at Parliament House in March 2023. The cross-sector experts included representatives from employers, community organisations, unions, government officials and, most importantly, people with lived experience as skilled refugees and migrants seeking meaningful employment in Australia.

  • Who created the campaign? 

    This campaign belongs to everyone. It is a movement of individuals and organisations who want to see refugees and migrants fulfil their economic potential. Campaign resources are free for anyone to use, and they can be found under the resources page.

    The campaign was initiated and convened by Settlement Services International (SSl), a national not-for-profit providing life changing human services to empower those from diverse backgrounds, including skilled refugees and migrants, to achieve their full potential.  

  • How will my personal information be used if I sign the petition?   

    We take your privacy seriously and will protect your personal information. If you sign the petition, your name will be added to the petition list, which will be presented to the Prime Minister. 

    Settlement Services International (SSI) is managing the petition on behalf of the Billion Dollar Benefit campaign. Your contact details (such as your email) will be secured by SSI and not shared with any other organisation, in accordance with SSI’s Privacy Policy. We will not email you except to inform you of important news or developments related to the Billion Dollar Benefit campaign. If you wish to remove yourself from the mailing list, simply unsubscribe from any campaign email you receive.

  • My organisation is interested in getting involved campaign. What should we do?  

    That’s great news! If you are interested in creating meaningful change and joining the campaign as an organisational supporter, please visit the ‘join us’ section on our website or reach out to us directly at billiondollarbenefit@ssi.org.au

    Help us build momentum and break down barriers by sharing the Billion Dollar Benefit campaign with your staff, communities and networks. The more people and organisations that get behind this campaign, the greater the impact we can have to support skilled refugees and migrants!

  • Don’t refugees and migrants already make a significant economic contribution to Australia? 

    Absolutely. Refugees and migrants already contribute substantially to Australia’s economy – expanding consumer markets for local goods, opening new businesses, bringing in new skills, creating employment opportunities and filling empty employment niches. Refugees are twice as likely to start a business than the wider Australian population. More than 80% of migrants are of working age, compared with 65% of the broader population. Even though refugees and migrants have contributed so much already, they could contribute even more and achieve their full economic potential if they weren’t held back by employment barriers. 

  • Is this campaign about lowering standards so refugees and migrants can find jobs?

    No, not at all. We are advocating for standards to be clear, consistent, and fit-for-purpose. In many industries, English requirements are higher than they need to be. This arbitrarily locks out skilled refugee and migrant talent. Reforming English language requirements isn’t about reducing standards; it is about ensuring standards are fit-for-purpose.

  • Will increasing employment opportunities for refugees and migrants lead to greater migrant worker exploitation?  

    Both increasing employment opportunities and ending migrant worker exploitation need be done together. Ending migrant worker exploitation is important, first and foremost, to prevent the suffering of those workers and to uphold their rights. Protecting migrant workers is also critical to maintain the integrity of the labour market and to protect Australia’s reputation as a destination of choice. 

  • What are the key barriers holding back refugees and migrants from achieving their career potential? 

    Unfortunately there are many employment barriers which face refugees and migrants. Some of these barriers are structural, such as Australia’s overly complex and expensive process to get overseas qualifications and skills recognised. Other barriers relate to attitudes, such as unconscious bias in recruitment practices and expectations that applicants need to have local work experience. Another barrier is inconsistent work rights, which leads some employers to assume that all people seeking asylum are ineligible to work. 

  • Would reducing employment barriers for newcomers mean people born in Australia miss out on jobs?

    More than 280 occupations face skill shortages in Australia, including more than half of the 20 largest employing occupations. These are gaps that exist because locals can’t fill them. For example, 30,000 engineers are needed nationally. Half of migrant engineers, however, are unemployed or work in other sectors, presenting an untapped talent pool to fill engineering vacancies across the country. Reducing barriers facing skilled refugees and migrants won’t displace scarce jobs, it will help fill vacant ones.  

  • Who is responsible for reducing employment barriers holding back refugees and migrants?  

    Breaking down barriers to refugee and migrant employment is a shared responsibility; it is a responsibility and opportunity shared by governments (of all levels), employers, non-government organisations, and unions. There is a role for government in scaling-up targeted employment services for refugees and migrants and providing the right incentives and protections. There is a role for employers in reducing recruitment-related barriers and providing welcoming and inclusive workplaces. There is a role for the community sector in supporting newcomers to settle in a new culture and society, and a role for unions in advocating for refugee and migrant workers. 

  • What industries face skill shortages? And could refugees and migrants already in Australia fill those skill gaps? 

    The top five professional occupations with critical skills shortages in Australia are (1) health, (2) information and communications technology, (3) design, engineering, science and transport, (4) education, and (5) legal, social and welfare. Interestingly, the most common backgrounds of skilled refugees and migrants are engineering and technology, trades and services, business and management, teaching and trainer education, and computing and ICT – the same fields suffering from unfilled vacancies. For example, Australian employers have an urgent need for more than 30,000 engineers. Despite this, half of migrant engineers are either unemployed or working in other sectors. By fixing this mismatch – getting skilled migrants into skilled roles – we could ease the skills shortage.

  • Why should employers hire refugees and migrants? 

    Why not? Recruitment should be based on proven skills and proven experience, and refugees and migrants have plenty of that. They are a tremendous source of talent and insight, as employees, entrepreneurs and business leaders. Unlike most OECD countries, where migrants tend to be less qualified than the native population, the opposite is true in Australia. More than 85% of Australian employers report their refugee employees are as productive or more productive than the rest of their workforce. Newcomers are also highly loyal, with 73% of US employers reporting higher retention rates for refugees than for other employees. On top of that, three out of four Australian workers support or strongly support their organisation becoming more diverse and inclusive. Ultimately, a diverse workforce enables organisations to better understand, connect with, and serve the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base. 

  • Should Australia encourage skilled migration from overseas to help fill skills gaps? 

    Many are quick to look for talent overseas to fill critical skills shortages in Australia but there is untapped solution much closer to home: harnessing the underutilised skills of people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants already in Australia. Overseas skilled migration can also help fill skills gaps, but we shouldn’t neglect those migrants already here. 

  • What is the difference between a migrant and a refugee?

    A migrant is a person who makes a conscious choice to leave their country to seek a better life elsewhere. Before they decide to leave their country, migrants can seek information about their new home, study the language and explore employment opportunities. They can plan their travel, take their belongings with them and say goodbye to the important people in their lives. They are free to return home at any time if things don’t work out as they had hoped, if they get homesick or if they wish to visit family members and friends left behind.

    Refugees are forced to leave their country because they are at risk of, or have experienced, persecution. The concerns of refugees are human rights and safety, not economic advantage. They leave behind their homes, most or all their belongings, family members and friends. Some are forced to flee with no warning, and many have experienced significant trauma or been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. The journey to safety is fraught with hazards and many refugees risk their lives in search of protection. They cannot return unless the situation that forced them to leave improves.