Published: February 24, 2021

Tang, A., Perales, F., Rowe, F. & Baxter, J. (2021). ‘The Going Gets Rougher: Exploring the Labour Market Outcomes of International Graduates in Australia’. Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2021-04. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.


Angelina Tang, Francisco Perales, Francisco Rowe, and Janeen Baxter.

Download: Life Course Centre Working Paper: 2021-04

Non-technical summary:

The retention of international graduates has been deemed a viable approach to redressing skill shortages in many countries mainly owing to their local academic credentials. These countries – including Australia – have put in place a range of strategies designed to retain international graduates after the completion of their studies. Since 1999, Australia has maintained post-study migration and employment pathways offering work and residence rights to eligible international graduates. Similar to other countries, emerging evidence, albeit fragmented, indicates that international graduates struggle to integrate into the Australian labour market. This study utilises the Australian Graduate Survey to examine patterns, trends and changes in the labour market outcomes of international graduates who remained in Australia between 1998 and 2015.

This study shows that the percentage of international graduates who remained in Australia with the intention to work more than doubled between 1998 and 2015. The more recent cohorts, however, tended to come from non-English-speaking backgrounds, stay on with temporary visas, and lack local work experience, all of which have been linked to poorer outcomes in the Australian labour market. In fact, this study reveals a clear trend of rising economic inactivity, unemployment, part-time employment and qualification mismatch amongst international graduates who remained in Australia over the years. These results highlight the vulnerability of international graduates in the face of evolving immigration policies and weakening labour market for recently qualified tertiary graduates during this period.

This study points to a need to review and strengthen existing policies and interventions to help international graduates integrate into the Australian labour market – if Australia is to fully utilise and benefit from their skills and knowledge. Policies and interventions should incorporate ways to better prepare international graduates for the labour market; improving paid work experience in the final year of study is likely to be a step in the right direction.