Study shows one in three backpackers and international students are paid half the legal minimum wage – again!November 22nd, 2017 | | jobs
Written by Abbie O’Brien of SBS
A new report has found one in three international students and backpackers in Australia are being paid about half the legal minimum wage. It described the job exploitation of this group of workers in Australia as ‘endemic and severe’. Belgian backpacker Laurent Van Eesbeeck has spent four months working as a fruit picker on eight different farms across Queensland. Some of his experiences were pleasant, he said.
About 42 cents of every dollar on average spent at a small business is reinvested back into the local community, new research shows. But Mr Van Eesbeeck amounts others to a form of “modern slavery”, telling he worked in extreme conditions while consistently being underpaid. “I remember on a cherry tomato farm, I was completely bullied by the supervisor and I was completely underpaid,” he said. “I think my first job, I got $10 for two or three hours of work. When I went picking strawberries, I think I averaged $60-a-day before tax for eight hours of hard work under the sun.”
Laurent’s experience is far from isolated, according to new report Wage Theft in Australia that reveals the extent of the exploitation of temporary migrants. The joint study from the University of New South Wales and University of Technology, Sydney surveyed more than 4000 temporary migrants from 107 countries – with 2392 of those international students and 1440 backpackers. Report co-author and UTS Law professor Laurie Berg told SBS News it was the first study of its kind in Australia. “To this point, we haven’t known how far the exploitation goes,” she said. “So our survey presents the first hard data that shows that we have a hidden underclass of temporary migrants in this country. “And they are made up of international students and backpackers who are earning well under the minimum wage.”
The national minimum wage is $18.29 per hour but the study found a third of backpackers earn $12 per hour or less, while a quarter of all international students earn $12 or less. It found almost half of backpackers make $15 or less in their lowest paid job, and it’s a similar statistic for international students, at 43 per cent. Professor Berg says the exploitation is not limited to the farming industry. “Underpayment was widespread across 12 different industries. It was particularly prevalent in food services, so restaurants cafes take away stores,” she told SBS News.
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