Temporary migrants systematically exploited by Australian employers: study

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/11/21 10:46:58

Australian employers are intentionally underpaying backpackers and international students, a survey has found.

The study, undertaken by three prominent Sydney universities, revealed systemic exploitation of young foreign workers in Australia with many being paid less than half the minimum wage.

"We found the overwhelming majority of international students and backpackers are aware they are being underpaid. However, they believe few people on their visa expect to receive the legal minimum wage," lead author Bassina Farbenblum, a senior law lecturer at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), said in a media release on Tuesday.

One third of backpackers and a quarter of international students were being paid nine US dollars per hour, half the minimum wage, the survey of 4,322 temporary migrants from over 100 countries found.

Chinese international students were exploited at exceptionally high rates with 31 percent making less than half the minimum wage in their lowest-paying job.

Comparatively, 27 percent of students from Britain, 25 percent from Ireland and 20 percent from the United States made less than nine US dollars per hour.

Students from western European countries such as Italy and Germany also fared poorly with 33 percent making less than half the minimum wage.

Overall, students from Asian countries received lower wages on average than those from Europe or North America.

"Our broken laws not only facilitate the theft of wages, they have facilitated big businesses importing what amounts to a slave labour class of workers on temporary visas," Ged Kearney, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), said.

"Wage theft has to stop. Workers must have quick and easy access to justice and unions which can protect their rights."

A vast majority, 86 percent, of respondents who made up to 11.3 US dollars per hour believed many, most or all other temporary migrants were being paid less than the minimum wage.

"A fifth of every nationality was paid around half the legal minimum wage. For almost 40 percent of students and backpackers, their lowest paid job was in a cafe, restaurant or takeaway," co-author Laurie Berg from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) said.

The study uncovered 91 cases of migrants having their passports confiscated by employers and 173 instances where an international student or backpacker was forced to make an upfront deposit of up to 750 US dollars to secure a job.

Farbenblum said those experiences constituted criminal forced labor and reveals a failure by governments and unions to address the scale of non-compliance.

"It provides compelling evidence for expanded services that respond to temporary migrants' experiences, as shared directly by them," she said.

One in seven participants in the survey who worked on a fruit or vegetable farm reported being paid less than four US dollars per hour.

Under Australian law, anyone in Australia on a working holiday visa must complete 88 days of agricultural work in the first year of their visa to qualify for a second year.

Posted in: ASIA-PACIFIC

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