4.11 General Comment

A cynical view of the migration movement is to consider it as " ... essentially a political process whereby one government states they require people and another government agrees to let them migrate." (Centre for Urban Research and Action, 1975, p 111), with the migrant fitting in in this scheme of things as well as he/she might.

It may be self evident that Australian industry needed the migrant just as much as the migrant needed Australia.

From Stockholm to Marseilles, from Brussels to Frankfurt you can interview, as we have done, any manager in industry, any contractor, any director of highways, any hospital administrator. The reply is unanimous: we cannot manage without them (WFTU. 1976,p 10).

The Maltese working force in Australia is the outcome of push-forces working at home and pull-forces in Australia. It is the result of economic difficulties faced by the Maltese in their home country and the promise of a better life for themselves and their family in Australia. At all times it has been highly selective and not representative of the overall population in Malta. The type of person that found emigration attractive has therefore been the sort of person that was much more likely to be immediately utilized as a factory worker doing work for which extensive training was not required. At no time have employers and Governments considered dramatic changes in the social status of immigrants - only quick patch-up jobs. In Australia, as indeed elsewhere, "migrants do the hardest, dirtiest and worst paid work; they live in conditions that are inferior and in all countries suffer discrimination in all areas of social and political life" (WFTU. 1976, p 3).

The result is that many Maltese migrants took up the first job offered to them, many of them negotiated on the steps of the ship that brought them here, and with minor changes, have been doing the same sort of work ever since. What is however more of an indictment of the system is that there has been no attempt to help the migrant rise out of the bottom rungs of the economic scale. The wages of most migrants and Maltese migrants in particular are much lower than the Australian average. There is no significant convergence towards the Australian norm.

Studies which lump together all NESB ethnic groups are likely to give a very false impression of the economic situation of migrants since some ethnic groups have done considerably well. As McAllister (1986, p 35) says,

"among the overseas birthplace groups, the Italian-born emerged as a deviant group ... Italian-born are perhaps one of the most structurally settled of the post-war migrant communities, and this has obvious benefits in terms of support and socialisation for newer migrants ... One result of this maybe that they have less difficulty in translating education and experience into occupational status".

Even in studies purporting to show that there is little occupational disadvantage among migrants, exception had to be made for persons from Mediterranean countries who were at a significant disadvantage to the Australian-born, after education and other factors had been taken into account. Indeed it has been the experience of most workers that it is "much harder for [Southern European] immigrants than for other Australians to raise their economic status" (Rivett 1975).

Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990

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