Backpackers, global students suffer widespread wage theft, report finds

Fruit and vegetable picking jobs are often underpaid. 
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"One of the really striking findings was that 86 per cent of worldwide students and backpackers. perceive that everybody on their visa is being underpaid", the study's co-author Bassina Farbenblum of the University of New South Wales told AFP.

Temporary migrant workers represent more than 10 per cent of the Australian labor market and the survey paints a grim picture of the working conditions of the migrant workers who come to Australia in search of a better future.

Bassina Farbenblum, co-author of the report, stated that the study also dispels the myth that underpayment occurs simply because temporary migrants don't know the minimum wage.

Co-author Laurie Berg said global students and backpackers encounter conditions that "may constitute criminal forced labour".

It described the job exploitation of this group of workers in Australia as "endemic and severe".

Many overseas workers are paid in cash, including two in three waiters, kitchen-hands and food servers.

The bleak findings, released today by UNSW Sydney and UTS, show a third of backpackers and worldwide students are paid half the legal minimum wage.

Backpackers and global students are subjected to widespread exploitation in Australia, a study has found.

Laurent Van Eesbeeck was paid $60 a day on average at one strawberry farm

Nearly a third (30%) of worldwide students and backpackers in Australia are earning half the minimum wage as casual employees, according to findings from a report, 'Wage Theft in Australia: Findings of the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey'.

Nearly one in seven participants working in fruit-and-vegetable picking and farm work (15pc) earned $5 (€3.23) per hour or less. "However, they believe few people on their visa expect to receive the legal minimum wage", Farbenblum says.

Berg says the study also shows worldwide students and backpackers encounter conditions that may constitute criminal forced labour.

Other examples of exploitative measures included: employees paying the legal amount and then demanding a certain percentage of cash back (as was recently uncovered to be the practise at several 7-Eleven outlets); employees having their passports confiscated by their employer (as happened to 4 percent of respondents); and some employees being forced to pay an upfront "deposit" for a job (5 percent).

"A fifth of every nationality was paid around half the legal minimum wage".

"At some point, virtually everyone in this country has enjoyed food or services that have involved serious underpayment of global students or backpackers", Ms Berg added. "For nearly 40 percent of students and backpackers, their lowest paid job was in a cafe, restaurant or takeaway", Berg said, as quoted by UNSW Newsroom. Half of them never or rarely receive a payslip.

Ms Berg also believes the exploitation of workers from overseas has negative repercussions for Australian workers.

What this study shows is there are urgent concerns that the government, businesses, unions and other service providers to take heed of and allocate resources for action to be taken.



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