Migrant workers are scared to speak up, new report shows
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Migrant workers are scared to speak up, new report shows

Migrant workers are scared to speak up, new report shows

by Freya Lucas

April 21, 2023

People who have migrated to Australia and New Zealand to work are 10 percentage points less likely to tell someone when they are experiencing violence or harassment at work, a new report has shown. 


When compared with Northern and Western Europe, the contrast is strong. In Western and Northern European countries, only 2 per cent of employees with migrant backgrounds are reluctant to speak up, suggesting that Australian employers may need to make more of an effort to support migrant workers. 


The primary reason behind the reluctance to speak out was migrant workers being unfamiliar with the process for seeking support, and not being aware of agencies, such as Fair Work Australia, that may be able to assist. 


In addition to workers born overseas, the researchers found that employees who are struggling financially are more likely to experience harassment in the workplace, and are less likely to speak up. 


The research comes from Lloyd’s Register Foundation, a global safety charity, which is now calling for the widespread ratification of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 190 – an internationally recognised inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach for the prevention and elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work.


Despite being introduced in 2019, very few countries have ratified the convention, including the USA, Australia and New Zealand.


Data from Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s World Risk Poll, powered by GallupAnalysed was examined in the new report – Focus On: The impact of income and migration on violence and harassment at work – finding that foreign-born workers were more likely to have experienced violence and harassment in the workplace (28 per cent vs 22 per cent of native-born workers). 


Additionally, 56 per cent of native-born workers who reported experiencing violence and harassment at work also told someone else about their experience. For foreign-born workers, this dropped slightly to 53 per cent.


“Violence and harassment has become a global issue,” said Aaron Gardner, Data and Insight Scientist at Lloyd’s Register Foundation, “and more must be done to support those suffering in the workplace.”


“The evidence is clear for all to see, and the issue is unlikely to go away on its own. One action that governments and policymakers can take immediately is the ratification of ILO Convention 190. However, ratification must provide the impetus for practical action to address experiences of violence and harassment in the workplace.”


“Data from the World Risk Poll can be used by governments, employers and trade unions to create targeted approaches to reduce the harm experienced at a local level, ensuring all employees are protected.”


To compile the report, 125,000 people across 121 countries were polled about their experiences of workplace violence and harassment. All those interviewed were given a comprehensive definition of each of the three forms of ‘violence and harassment’ that they were asked about – physical, psychological, and sexual.


Organisations, policymakers and researchers can access the entire dataset by visiting the World Risk Poll website. The Focus On report can be downloaded here.

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