Bhutanese Students in Australia Struggle with Employment and Housing Challenges

In a wave of migration that saw a record number of Bhutanese securing visas for Australia in recent years, many hopeful students and their families embarked on a journey toward better education and opportunities. However, upon arrival, they’ve been met with formidable challenges, particularly in securing employment and affordable housing.

The transition has not been easy for these newcomers, who face stringent work hour restrictions, making it arduous to find suitable employment. Pema and Deki, pseudonyms used for anonymity, shared their experiences, highlighting the difficulties of securing jobs due to limited working hours. Mainstream employers often shy away from hiring students due to these restrictions, leaving many with fewer job opportunities and lower wages, sometimes even below the legal minimum.

Moreover, the fear of immigration officials tracking their work hours looms large, with recent incidents of visa cancellations for those found to have exceeded their allotted hours. This fear has led some to accept exploitative work conditions, often at the hands of Asian employers who pay below minimum wage and in cash, exacerbating their vulnerability.

Despite their efforts to secure employment, Bhutanese students like Pema and Deki find themselves grappling with the soaring cost of living, particularly in housing. With rents skyrocketing, many are forced into overcrowded accommodations or face rejection due to a lack of rental history, further compounding their struggles.

Dr. Sonam Tenzin, a prominent figure within the Bhutanese community in Australia, sheds light on the broader spectrum of Bhutanese migrants. While some, like Pema and Deki, navigate the challenges of blue-collar jobs and housing, others, equipped with higher qualifications and skills, find opportunities in white-collar professions and business ownership.

Dr. Sonam underscores the diversity within the Bhutanese diaspora, challenging misconceptions about their occupational status. Despite facing obstacles, he remains optimistic about the prospects in Australia, emphasizing the importance of upskilling and networking to navigate the evolving job market.

As discussions about the future unfold, there’s a mixed sentiment among Bhutanese migrants regarding their plans to return home. While some express a longing for Bhutan and a desire to contribute to its development, bureaucratic hurdles and economic uncertainties dampen their prospects. Dr. Sonam acknowledges the complexities of returning, citing concerns about livelihoods and family obligations that tether them to Australia.

In the face of adversity, Bhutanese migrants in Australia persevere, driven by a mix of ambition and necessity. Their stories paint a vivid picture of resilience and adaptation in the pursuit of a better life, underscoring the challenges and triumphs of migration in an ever-changing world.

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