Universities to survey international students about exploitation

The Migrant Worker Justice Initiative launched a nationwide survey seeking feedback from international students about the experience of exploitation at work and by accommodation providers.

The survey forms part of the Information for Impact Project, funded by StudyNSW in response to the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce report. This project calls on education providers to ensure that international students have access to information and support to address this exploitation.

UNSW Sydney and the University of Technology Sydney are running the nationwide survey, working with project partners including Redfern Legal Centre, English Australia, ISANA NSW, Council of International Students Australia, International Student Education Agents Association and the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The project follows on from research conducted by UTS Faculty of Law academic Dr Laurie Berg and UNSW Faculty of Law academic Bassina Farbenblum. Their 2017 report, Wage Theft in Australia found that a quarter of international students were earning $12/hr or less, and 43% of students earned $15/hr or less – well below minimum wage.

“Our research demonstrated that many international students are substantially underpaid at work and exploited by unscrupulous accommodation providers,” Ms Farbenblum said.

"Education providers are deeply concerned but lack data on how to best assist international students to avoid these situations and get help.”

RLC's international student solicitor Sean Stimson welcomed the new survey as an important tool to raise awareness and create change.

"Redfern Legal Centre is a proud partner on the Information for Impact Project," Mr Stimson said.

“Through our casework, we know that exploitation of international students by landlords and employers is at endemic levels. This is a distressingly common theme for people seeking help from our international student service, as well as our employment and tenancy advice services.

"This survey provides an important mechanism to deepen the research in this area, allowing the experiences of international students to be heard and providing a call to action for education providers to play a greater role in enacting change.” 

The survey is available in English, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese. Results will be published in late 2019. 

The survey link is available at: http://www.mwji.org/internationalstudentsurvey