Australia has a large number of undocumented workers – some estimates suggest that the number may exceed 100,000 people. Add to this the massive international student population and temporary work visa holders and you have a big problem. Sadly this leads to exploitation by unscrupulous employers. These sentiments were published in a recent article in The Conversation. Many such people conclude that they do not have the same rights as the rest of the Australian work force and therefore the cycle of exploitation continues to exist.
This phenomenon is unfortunately on the rise, however this isn’t anything new in Australia. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has reported that there was a rise in the number of visa over-stayers in the 2 years since 2013, to as many as 62,700.
The Howells review commissioned by the federal government back in 2011, has described non-citizens working without clearance from the government as, “in simple numerical terms, the most significant problem facing the immigration authorities of Australia.”
A new landmark research on overseas workers was able to reveal that nearly 4 out of 5 student visa workers from China are being paid less than the minimum wage in Sydney, with 2 out of 5 being paid around AU$12 per hour or maybe even less. The study also revealed that many people working as waiters were also being paid less than a proper wage.
Mr Stephen Clibborn, a lecturer from the University of Sydney Business School, who ran the study stated that the survey population was 1,433 international students, all studying in Sydney. 19 percent, or 272 of these students had a part time job.
Of these students:
- The lowest pay they received was from $0 per hour, and it was noted that 35 percent were paid $12 an hour or less;
- 60 percent said that they were paid below national minimum wage which is $17.29 an hour;
- 50 percent did not even get a pay slip; and
- 35 percent stated that they somehow felt threatened or felt that they were not safe in the workplace;
- For Chinese students, 43 percent got $12 or less and a large percentage of 73.5 percent were paid below the minimum wage
The Fair Work Ombudsman stated in its latest annual report that court actions that touch on overseas workers climbed up by 75 percent during the period of 2014 to 2015, with most of the cases having something to do with the restaurant industry.