Survey reveals majority of intl students earn below minimum casual wage

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A national survey of 5,000 international students by the University NSW finds three quarters of respondents earn below the minimum casual wage. Shockingly, one quarter are paid less than half the minimum wage. Clearly, Australia must urgently reform work rules for international students, with a new study showing the majority are still being badly ripped off at work.

International Students and Wage Theft in Australia finds the Fair Work Ombudsman is barely making a dent in the wage theft epidemic, prompting calls to give international students better rights, and properly empower unions to represent them.

“This research is depressingly consistent. Australia is running a two tiered labour market and international students are getting screwed,” said Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW.

“The root cause of this problem is the restriction on working 20 hours a week. No one can survive on that little income in a city like Sydney. As such, international students are forced into cash work, where they get ripped off. If they report this exploitation, they can then lose their visa. We must abolish this restriction. There is no justification to restrict working hours to 20 hours a week and in fact, the current system bakes in wage theft,” said Morey.

“But we also need an iron-clad deportation amnesty for international students who report workplace exploitation. Australia needs to get serious about how it treats international students. We gouge them for higher education fees and taxes, all while we know they are being horrendously exploited. Then when a crisis like COVID hits, we exclude them from income support, allowing thousands of them to go hungry.”

The Government’s treatment of international students is a deep national shame and it’s about time we faced up to it, he said.


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