Over the decade leading up to COVID, the exploitation of international students became systemic across the Australian economy.
Multiple reports bemoaned the rampant wage theft from international students, especially from migrant employers of the same nationality.
For example, the 2016 Senate Committee report, A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of Temporary Work Visa Holders, noted that international students “were consistently reported to suffer widespread exploitation in the Australian workforce”, and that “a large portion of the hours that international students worked was undocumented (and unpaid)”.
The 2018 book, The Wage Crisis in Australia similarly noted that international students are vulnerable to exploitation as they “see themselves as involved in a project of ‘staggered’ or ‘multi-step’ migration”. The book’s analysis claimed around two-thirds of international students were paid below the minimum wage, with one-quarter earning $12/hour or less and 43% of students earning $15/hour or less.
And in 2019, the Report of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce found that about one-quarter of international students were paid around half the legal minimum wage, with exploitation of international students labelled “endemic”.
It seems the pandemic has done little to stem the exploitation, with international students continuing to report widespread wage theft:
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