Migration as a solution?

Migrants to kickstart economy, proclaimed the headline in yesterday’s edition of The Australian. Being a migrant myself, I quickly read the news article to learn more about what the headline meant. It turned out the Immigration Minister is pushing for a year-long increase in the allocated places that would be given to possible migrants to help in the skills shortages in the country. PM John Howard is said to be backing the plan and if it pushes through, there would be 20,000 more places for skilled workers during 2005-06, particularly for doctors, mechanics, boilermakers, hairdressers, pharmacists and accountants.

Migration experts said there’s a need to supplement the labour market with fresh blood, citing that businesses here are in dire need of skilled employees that the locals cannot meet. The warning is underscored by the headline in today’s edition of the same newspaper citing the abandonment of a plan to reopen one of the country’s largest gold mines due to the difficulty of finding fitters, electricians and truck drivers. The scrapped project would have produced 140,000 ounces of gold and generated in excess of $80 million yearly. Stories like these are enough to convince some people that indeed, there is a skills shortage and perhaps the best thing to do is to import these skills from abroad. That’s good news for new migrants, right? Perhaps, but perhaps not entirely.

As with most issues affecting the country, there are those who also say that migration as a solution to this problem is a band-aid solution at best and may even be counter-productive. A segment in last night’s Today Tonight’s episode showed mature workers(over 50s) who are willing and able to work in the very same jobs being cited for skills shortages but couldn’t find employment. It’s sad to see that there are potential workers here who can’t get the opportunity to put their skills in use, contribute to society and lead productive lives. The segment didn’t clarify why these workers can’t get the jobs they’re applying for – is it because of their age, incompatibility of skills to the jobs or some other factor?

If the Howard government decides to increase the migrant places, I hope they do so after extensive planning and after considering all the other options. It should not be a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that may generate more problems in the future. I think that a good solution is a hybrid of re-training the local workforce and supplementing the current shortage with migrants who could fill the vacancies now. Re-training would give the people already here the opportunity to get the proper skills and give something back to the community (as opposed to being idle and on welfare). Age shouldn’t be a factor either as there are anti-discrimination laws against it. As long as they are willing to learn and able to work, then they should be given an equal opportunity to have a go at it.

The government would also have to consider that the migrants they attract may not exactly fill the vacancies they have in mind. Migration takes time and the jobs they want to fill now may no longer be available once the migrants arrive. Furthermore, some of the jobs available may be in the cities but most may not be. Given a choice, migrants might choose to settle in New South Wales (most popular destination for people landing here) where they may not find the jobs they were trained for and hope to fill. That may translate to two things: (1) Under employment or (2) leaving either to go back to their home countries or move to another foreign land.

As migrants, there are people who’d gladly accept option number one simply because they want to keep staying in the country. They may or may not seek further education or training. Option number 2 may win out if the migrant feels that there’s a better future elsewhere and that staying may not be worth their while. This option wastes money and leads to disappointment. For the migrant, he/she may need to spend money to lodge an application for skilled migration to the country, shoulder the costs of medical exams, plane tickets, everyday living when he/she gets here and if he/she decides to go back, has to shell out the money for the plane ride home amid the disappointment that the migration didn’t work. For the government this would translate to wasted places allocated to skilled migration and administrative costs that went into the migration.

The government would have to consider the need for more infrastructure as well. More people necessitates the need to be able to support them. If it works, this would mean a better economy (what they’re hoping for) because one need filled would create new needs/services that other workers may be able to fill. If it fails could lead to decline with more people to support without the means to do so. Either way, the government would have to think this through thoroughly.

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Published in: on March 4, 2005 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Speaking in American or Australian?

After reading Gigi’s blog at Gigi Goes Gaga titled Talking American, it reminded me of our own similar experience here in Australia.

Gigi wrote:

For the first year after I moved to the States, it seemed I had completely forgotten how to speak. I’ve always been an English speaker — I even think in English (although when I’m angry or flustered, my brain only remembers Tagalog). And although my Lolo (Grandfather), a Tagalog poet and writer, always admonished us strongly against speaking in Taglish, I’d sometimes slip, as I still do today, especially if in the presence of like-minded language violators. But now I found myself unable to speak comfortably in any way.

[snipped]

It took me a while to figure out what had happened. I realized when I spoke English to Americans, I wasn’t always understood. My accent got in the way.

I, too, grew up speaking more comfortably in English than in Tagalog. My parents and grandparents taught me English better than they taught me Tagalog. I grew up watching Sesame Street and other American chidren’s programs. I found it easier to speak in English. I found it so easy that I think and speak to myself in English.

I did encounter some difficulties in early schooling whenever a teacher or classmate will ask me questions in Tagalog and I wouldn’t understand completely what they’re saying because of my limited command of the Tagalog language at the time.

It’s pathetic, I know, but what can I do? I wasn’t taught a lot of Tagalog words when I was growing up. Even now, Raquel teases me that I’m not really a Filipino because I don’t know what some Tagalog words meant. Heck, she knows more uncommon Tagalog words than me and she’s three-quarters Chinese.

Anyway, when I got to Australia, I was totally caught off-guard by the accent, the speech pattern and the slang. They call this speaking Strine. During my first few months, I usually had a difficult time trying to comprehend those locals who spoke real fast in Strine.

Most of the time, I understood what was being said… given time. Unlike when I’m hearing American English, I had to wait for a few moments for my brain to fully “translate” what I just heard. The result: I wasn’t able to reply to questions quickly.

And when I did reply, I spoke in American… so I’m told. Well, that is, when I could talk coherently. When I visited the US, I was able to speak fluently in English. But here, I stuttered.

Thinking about it, I think it’s because I’m second guessing myself. Is the sentence I’m about to utter constructed grammatically correct? I pause mid-sentence to correct myself. Here, I’m also very conscious of what I’m saying because I’m afraid that I might not be understood. And I’m not! It’s happened more times than I care to count.

Also, when I was starting out here, I intended to blend in better in my adopted country by attempting to speak the way they speak. I began using phrases like, “no worries, mate” or “good on ya” or “she’ll be all right” or “yeah” pronounced more as Yeh than Yah or “whatja reckon?” I tried saying R’s without rolling them so that “summer” becomes “summah” and “harbour” becomes “harbuh” and so forth. I tried saying a rolling R in between two words when the first word ended in an Ah or Oh sound and the next word starts with a vowel so that “Pamela Anderson” became “PamelarAnderson” and “I saw it” became “I sawrit” and “drawing” becomes “drawring.”

However, thinking about all of these things plus the fact that I was trying desperately to understand the local talking to me made it even more likely that I’m going to stutter when I started speaking.

It’s a good thing that nowadays, I found listening to Strine easier. I’ve come to expect the “d’ya reckons” and the “g’days” in typical conversation. Although I still find listening to Americans very pleasant and definitely a lot easier to understand, I’m now actually caught off guard when I hear somebody speaking in an American accent (except when watching American TV shows or movies).

I also found that it helped that I abandoned my attempt to speak more Australian. I just reverted back to speaking in a more American way of speaking with an undoubtedly slight Filipino accent. I still stutter on occasion though but mostly when I’m being conscious about it. It’s kinda like when I’m walking down a flight of stairs and then I start thinking about which foot I should use next and I end up getting confused and tripping. I realised I speak English better when I’m not thinking about speaking in English.

Published in: on March 4, 2005 at 12:03 am  Comments (1)