About 7% of the Australian workforce holds a temporary visa. When many international students, backpackers and other temporary visa holders suddenly left during the pandemic, the ensuing staff shortages made clear how vital these workers are to the Australian economy.
Responding to industry demands for workers, a new agriculture visa was created, Labor has promised an extended Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme and international students were given unlimited work rights.
Theft of migrant workers’ wages is rampant
Our surveys of more than 8000 international students between 2016 and 2019 consistently found the majority were underpaid. One in four earned less than half the minimum casual hourly wage, while nine in 10 suffered wage theft in silence and took no action. Nine in 10 believed many or most other migrant workers were underpaid.
A March 2022 Senate Committee examining unlawful underpayment of employees described the problem as “systemic, sustained and shameful”.