The impact of COVID-19 on employability of South Asian international students and graduates in Australia: A qualitative study

Presenters/Authors and Affiliations:
Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh, La Trobe University
Dr Sabrina Gupta, La Trobe University


International students and graduates’ employability phenomenon are widely researched by scholars around the world. However, the impact of COVID-19 on international students and graduates’ employability is an evolving issue and thus with minimal research. This paper aims to uncover unprecedented challenges and strategies adopted by international students and graduates from South Asia in navigating their employability. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 international students and 20 international graduates from South Asian background from Australia. Employability related challenges experienced by international students during the COVID-19 included loss of employment and difficulty in gaining employment. Furthermore, families of many of these students lost their sources of income back in their home country, several of whom were the main funding source for these students. Support from the university, the migrant communities and religious organisations was mentioned as the most useful during this crisis. On the other hand, international graduates had a spectrum of employment challenges during this pandemic. Although, all international graduates in this study were working in various industries, such as, retail, hospitality, education and telecommunications, 20 % faced challenges in terms of not working in their field of studies and contracts ending due to financial constraints of the organisation. On the bright side, 80% of graduates interviewed were working in their field of studies and two even received gainful employment during COVID-19 crisis. Several employability related strategies were recommended by international graduates to all stakeholders involved in international education. For instance, graduates strongly urge Australian government and employers to provide more job opportunities to international graduates due to their varied talents. International graduates also advise current international students to upskill themselves via professional networking platforms and regularly updating their resume. This paper contributes to the body of knowledge on employability of international students and graduates in such unprecedented times.

About Authors

Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh

Affiliation/s: La Trobe University
Email: j.nachatarsingh@latrobe.edu.au

Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh is an award-winning Lecturer at the Department of Management, Sport and Tourism, La Trobe Business School, La Trobe University, Australia. In 2018, Dr Singh received La Trobe University Teaching Awards and Best Presenter Award at the Global Higher Education Forum, Malaysia. Dr Singh’s expertise is in higher education with a particular interest in exploring international students’ current issues such as their academic success lived experiences, employability and career aspirations as well as learning experiences. Dr Singh is a member of ACEN, SRHE, IEAA and a Fellow Researcher at the Malaysian National Higher Education Research Institute.

Dr Sabrina Gupta

Affiliation/s: La Trobe University
Email: s.gupta@latrobe.edu.au

Dr Sabrina Gupta is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology and Public Health and Assistant Course Advisor for the Bachelor of Health Science Program at La Trobe University. Sabrina completed her PhD in 2017 titled “Ethnicity, Cardiovascular Disease & Diabetes: A comparison between South Asians and Anglo Australians in Victoria, Australia”. In this research she examined migration, ethnicity, lifestyle, CVD and diabetes and the relationship with the healthcare system. She lectures in both undergraduate and post-graduate health science courses and supervises honours and post-graduate students in public health research.

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