RLC in the Media: One in four international students earn less than half the minimum wage

More than three-quarters of international students earn below the minimum casual wage and one in four earns less than $12 an hour – less than half the minimum casual hourly rate.

Anna Patty Reports for The Sydney Morning Herald

A study of 5000 international students in 2019 by the University of NSW and the University of Technology Sydney has found almost two thirds (62 per cent) suffered in silence and did not try to access help or even seek information about their problems.

UTS Law Associate Professor Laurie Berg and UNSW Associate Professor Bassina Farbenblum said despite the Fair Work Ombudsman's efforts and stronger penalties for wage theft in recent years it was "still business as usual in terms of the exploitation of international students".

"Tinkering around the edges of the problem isn’t working," she said.

Associate Professor Berg said almost two-thirds of international students didn’t seek information or help for problems at work and "suffered in silence, often because of visa concerns or fear of job loss".

She said many who complained were sacked and there was nothing to stop the labour regulator sharing information with immigration authorities if a student has worked more hours than their visa allowed.

Sharmilla Bargon, employment solicitor at the Redfern Legal Centre said the most common employment problem for clients was underpaid wages and this had worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There is not a week that goes by that we don’t see international students that have been exploited at work," she said.

Ms Bargon said one of her clients, Rohit Patel, was promised payment of $20 per hour as a casual, less than the minimum wage, but was not paid at all after two weeks of work. When he kept asking for his pay, his boss yelled at him and told him "you will never see the money, f---- off".

Ms Bargon said many international students and migrant workers not only lost income but were unable to access the Fair Entitlements Guarantee to recover unpaid entitlements after a business failed.

Read the full article here (SMH, 30 June 2020)