Australia’s leading international student news website

Wage theft in Australia: International students remain part of silent underclass

Mihika Hegde

Tue Dec 05 2017

Strawberry Pickers

Around 25 per cent of international students earn less than $12 an hour for work a new study has revealed. The current legal minimum wage in Australia is $18.29 per hour.

The study, conducted by University of Technology Sydney surveyed more than 4,000 international students and backpackers who undertook temporary work, across a range of industries, in Australia.

The study shed light on the common myth that international students and backpackers were not aware of the national minimum wage, finding 86 per cent of respondents who earned up to $15 per hour expected to be underpaid.

For those who were paid, 44 per cent were paid in cash and half never or rarely received a payslip.

The report also found students who worked more than 20 hours per week (potentially breaching their visa conditions) earned substantially lower wages than other students.

Workers from Asian countries including China, Taiwan and Vietnam were also more likely to be paid a lower wage than those from North America, Ireland and the UK.

Underpayment was found to be widespread across numerous industries but was especially prevalent in food services, and especially severe in fruit and vegetable picking.

Shockingly, instances of criminal forced labour were also uncovered in the survey – 91 respondents had their passports confiscated by employers, 173 respondents were made to pay upfront ‘deposits’ of up to $1,000 to secure a job in Australia, and 112 respondents had been asked to pay money back to their employer in cash after receiving their salary.

The survey is available in 12 languages and can be accessed at this link.