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International Students and Paid Work in Australia

Australia is popular among students all over the world for its best education. In 2017,
799,371 students came to Australia for education. This number shows that the
numbers of international students is huge. International students are the second
largest source of revenue in Australia. It is estimated that international students
worth AUD 28 billion in revenue in 2017 (Australian Government,2017a, as cited
in Clibborn, 2018). Moreover, the second thing after quality education that attracts
the student to Australia is the working rights to students. Students are allowed to
work for certain hours fortnightly depending on the visa. This allows most of the
students to work and study. It is found that most of the international students are
working in low skill jobs in cafes, restaurants, petrol pump (Clibborn, 2018).
International student has created new workforce in Australia. However, it is seen
that these students who are working here in Australia are vulnerable to workplace
exploitation (Chris et al., 2008). International students are vulnerable to workplace
exploitation because of limited work skills, limitation in working hours, under
employment, lack of knowledge of the working rights (Chris et al., 2008).
International students are being exploited in different forms. Most of them are under
pays, no penalty rates, being bullied or discriminated at work, working very long
hours without breaks.
On this paper, we will focus about international students exploitation in workplace
in Australia. To do so, we will first see some facts about the international students
working in Australia and then will analyze some ideas. Finally, we will see different
option to get rid of the problems faced by international students at workplaces. All
the discussions undertaken on this paper are done on the basis of findings from
different academic papers. The papers help to analyze about the workplace
exploitation of international students in Australia and to find the solution to
minimize them.

As an international student, it is difficult to adapt in Australia due to change in
culture, living style and most importantly high cost of living. To maintain the living
cost, most of the international students work as a part timer worker. However, it is
estimated that more than 400,000 students enrolled for study in Australia are getting
far less wages than the minimum wages (Carrie, 2018). According to the report
published by Breg and Farbenblum, quarter of all international students are paid less
than 12 dollar per hour or less and fourty percent of international students are paid
15 dollar per hour or less. This is less than the minimum wages declared by the fair
work commission (“New study goes deeper into international student exploitation,”
2018). Many employers in restaurants, cafes and Asian supermarkets are using
international students as cheap labour. They are not following fair work legislation.
The exploitation is mainly found in small business that offer entry level jobs.
Moreover, they made excessive control over the behavior of the students at work.
(Carrie, 2018).
International students represent large number of workforces in Australia. However,
many of these workforces are unaware of legal rights and roles as workers. As the
primary goals of most of the working international students is to supplement their
expenses, they are more vulnerable to exploitation (Clibborn, 2018). The main cause
of this is the fear. Most of the under paid international students fear to complain
against their employee because they think that they might lose their visa due to lack
of knowledge about their own visa conditions. The fair work commission indicates
that only a few cases come to the commission from the international students because
most if them fear to take the cases to the court. They misbelieve that taking the matter
to the court might terminate their visa (Peter, 2017). Moreover, there has been many
cases where the employers are threatening the international students to report to the
Immigration department if they tries to seek justice on their working conditions.
According to the journal posted by Peter (2017) in ABC news, Ms James, the fair
work ombudsman, implies that the fair work is always ready to help to all those
international students who are exploited in workplace and are willing to protect their
visa status as well (Peter, 2017).
We are well known with the issues of 7 eleven. 7- eleven is a popular store chains in
Australis. The victim of 7 eleven stepped out and spoke about the exploitation done
by 7 eleven to them. Many international students were able to get justice from the
incidents. This is just a example. There are many other companies who are exploiting
the working students. The main problem is in small business like cafe, restaurants,
coffee shops, clothing centre etc (Carrie, 2018).
Moreover, a recent report published by Hobsons (as cited in Carrie, 2018), only 34%
of the workplaces hire international graduates. Most of the jobs are open to
Permanent residents or Australian citizens only. However, international students
contribute more than 19 billion Australian dollar to Australian economy. Due to very
few options, international students are more viable to workplace exploitation. The
another factor that the international students are not hired is the visa limits. They
have limitation on working hours and their visa can finish soon.
Lack of knowledge about the minimum wages and working rights by the
international students make them an easy prey for the exploitation. Most of the
students are found to be making host frame of reference about the payment they are
receiving from their employers. This means that they compare the payment with the
payment they would get in their own country. For example, the minimum wages for
an hour is very less in India and Nepal than here in Australia. This makes the Indian
and Nepalese students that they are getting higher payment than usual. However, the
case is very different. Moreover, many students misunderstand that the legal
working rights are only for Australian residents and not for international students
(Clibborn, 2006).
Most of the international students speak with their fellow friends rather than
researching in a broad way about the job market. Most of them believe on their
friends about the payment available and jobs availability. They believe that the legal
job for them is very difficult and will be ready to work even in low wages (Clibborn,

Moreover, the difference in culture and language is also another factor for the
problems in workplace for international students. Due to this, international students
want to work in a place where they are familiar with the language and culture. For
example, A Chinese student wants to work in a Chinese restaurant because he feel
easy to communicate in mandarin. Due to this, the employer can take advantage and
force the worker to work with lower wages. In this case, many working students do
not want to quit the job even of they are mis treated. They fear to step out from the
comfort zone because of language and cultural barriers (Carrie, 2018).

Conclusion and Recommendations

The main aim of international students is to gain good knowledge and students
from the study. Most of the students are here because the degree here is recognized
internationally and makes the students competitive to achieve their future aim.
However, most of the students work for limited hours to make some money for
their living expenses. The international students are a part of large workforce here
in Australia. Workplace exploitation can be seen in many places. Among all other
workplace problems, low wage is the most rising problem. International students
are getting very low payment. As international students play vital role in fulfilling
the huge gap in workforce, it is necessary to investigate about the problems they
are having in their workplace. Although the key issue for international students is
pay, there are other issues like workplace harassment and workplace bullying as
well. Here are the recommendation that are very useful in minimizing the
i) Role of Institutions
The first thing that the university/colleges do to the international students is to
educate the international students about the workplace exploitation. Many students
do not have basic knowledge about their rights in workplace. The fair work
Ombudsman should work together with all institution to address the issue of
workplace exploitation. This can help international students to have complete
information about their working rights and will feel comfortable to talk about their
problems. It is seen that in most cases, students are unaware of FWOs advocacy
and assist. Education institutions can be the mediator between the FWO and the
ii)Better communication Strategies by the Fair work Ombudsman
The FWO should improve its communication strategies to address the workplace
exploitation of international students. It is recommended that FWO should plan a
single different platform to work for international students. For example, the FWO
can make a different webpage to speak about international students only. The page
can have full of information like request of assistance, all information about
workplace exploitation. It is to be clear that the FWO assistance is confidential and
free of cost. Many students are afraid to take legal action against the employer about
workplace exploitations. Moreover, International students are to be contacted
directly by person who can help them to solve the problem. It will be easy for
students if they are assisted by someone who knows their language. FWO can hire
the one who has bilingual ability. FWO can work with immigration and border
protection to provide all necessary information about their visa and working rights
while they are in Australia.

iii) Confidentiality
It is necessary to make sure that all information gathered by FWO during
investigation are confidential and the information cannot be passed to the
immigration department of immigration and border protection. This will make the
students feel secure and will be able to step up against the workplace exploitation.
iv) Time to Time Awareness Program
The government of Australia, FWO, Tax office and the immigration office should
increase its programe on awareness program. This can be the most effective step to
fight against workplace exploitation. International students are to be included n
campaign to educate them about all the working rights, and minimum wages.
Moreover, they are to be well informed about the penalty rates, workplace bullying
and harassment. The problem can be minimized if the students are well known about
all their rights.
Carrie, W. (2018). Workplace horrors confront international students. Retrieved
from https://honisoit.com/2018/08/workplace-horrors-confront-international-

Clibborn, S. (2018). Multiple frames of reference: Why international student

workers in Australia tolerate underpayment. Economic and Industrial Democracy,
0143831X1876524. doi:10.1177/0143831x18765247

New study goes deeper into international student exploitation. (2018, October 24)
Retrieved from http://www.law.unsw.edu.au/news/2018/10/new-study-goes-

Nyland, C., Forbes Mewett, H., Marginson, S., Ramia, G., Sawir, E., & Smith, S.
(2009). International student‐workers in Australia: a new vulnerable
workforce. Journal of Education and Work, 22(1), 1-14.

Peter, R. (2017). International students urged to speak out about rogue employers.
Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-25/international-students-