Is a language barrier preventing Asian migration?

Date: Apr 24, 2012

One of the main barriers preventing Australian businesses making connections with firms based in Asia is language, an expert has noted.

At a time when skilled migrants from the Asia-Pacific region are searching for jobs on Australian shores, it could be more important than ever to address the issue.

Although migration lawyers can help in terms of securing the right visas, it is up to the companies themselves to break down the language barrier.

Mark Saba, founder and head of translation services company Anecsys, explained that in the past, it was distance that prevented the two regions doing business with each other.

However, as transportation links have improved, the main problem now is that businesspeople in Australia simply do not engage with languages throughout Asia, he told the Australian.

Mr Saba continued: "We are very well positioned economically and geographically to take advantage of Asia's growth.

"And the linguistic opportunity is not only in Asian markets. There are also non-English-speaking Asian consumers [in Australia], who are usually forgotten in marketing efforts."

The need to engage with Asian workers may increase over the coming years, as recent research from KPMG indicated that the agricultural sector will need to bring in people from across the continent.

The report emphasised that as many as half of Australian workers in the industry could retire over the next ten years, with many of them failing to make plans for the future.

The Eyre Peninsula and the Mallee, both located in South Australia, have been identified as among those likely to be hardest hit by the surge in retirement.

Younger generations are less likely to enter the agricultural sector these days due to greater opportunities in other industries such as mining, KPMG noted.

The consultancy therefore predicted that skilled workers will instead be brought over from Asia to plug the gap and ensure farms are able to keep going throughout Australia.

If Mr Saba's predictions are correct, then a lack of knowledge surrounding Asian languages could make it difficult for these people to settle, despite their presence being necessary to support rural populations.

KPMG called upon the Australian authorities to work alongside Asian countries to develop immigration policies that allow transfers to be made between the two regions with greater ease.

Furthermore, it recommended a review of agricultural wages to make the jobs more appealing to overseas workers who are thinking of relocating.