Exploitation of International Students in the Workplace

Recent media exposes have drawn attention to significant underpayment and exploitation of international students in Australia. There has, however, been limited data available on the prevalence and nature of exploitation of Australia’s international student workforce, and still less understanding of why agencies such as the Fair Work Ombudsman rarely receive complaints from international students. Seeking to fill this gap, the 2017 National Temporary Migrant Work Survey collected information from 2,392 international students about their working conditions and views on related issues. This paper presents findings on international students’ pay and features of their lowest paid job, and experiences of more severe exploitative practices. It also addresses students’ knowledge of minimum wage in Australia, and their perceptions of wage rates of other international students. We consider how these factors differ between nationalities, types of jobs, and between students at universities and those at English-language and vocational colleges, revealing a complex portrait of widespread exploitation that demands urgent evidence-based interventions.

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