Meat workers from language backgrounds other than English

Over the past 3 months, MINTRAC have surveyed 66 meat processing plants across Australia about the language backgrounds of workers whose first language is not English.

It was discovered across the meat industry that:

  • There are over 25 different languages spoken.
  • There are almost 1900 workers who come from language backgrounds other than English in more than 40 companies.

The 5 most common languages other than English that are spoken in the meat industry are:

  • Portuguese (366)
  • Chinese (264)
  • Vietnamese (221)
  • Pilipino (186)
  • Malay (132)

MINTRAC identified approximately 250 workers from Sudan currently working in the industry, however as Sudan is made up of a number of different languages, it is difficult to ascertain the number of workers from each language background.

Out of the 1900 workers, MINTRAC found that 40% have very limited language skills; 39% have been identified by their trainers as having enough English to complete training, whilst only 11% are fluent in English. Almost 60% of these workers are able to interpret workplace signs, but this figure includes some workers whose companies translate signs into other languages to assist their workers. Only 19% of the workers can read and write English well enough to understand workplace documentation.

Approximately 42% are literate in their first language, though company representatives were unsure about 26% of trainees’ first language literacy.