International students in Sydney being underpaid

A new survey has revealed that the majority of international students who work part-time in Sydney are being underpaid.

The survey of more than 1,400 international students studying in Australia’s largest city, carried out by Stephen Clibborn, a Sydney University business school academic, found that 60 per cent of those who work alongside their studies earn less than the national minimum wage.

The national minimum wage in Australia is currently AUS$17.29 an hour, but 35 per cent of those surveyed were paid AUS$12 an hour or less.

What’s more, 50 per cent of international students reported receiving no pay slips, while 35 per cent said that they felt threatened or unsafe at work.

Underpaying international students was most common in retail and hospitality industries. “Those are areas where you also find working holiday visa holders, and I expect their experience is similar,” said Clibborn.

Students from China were particularly likely to be working for less than they should, with 73.5 per cent of Chinese students being paid below the minimum wage.

The president of the Council of International Students Australia, Nina Khairina, believes that many students fear reporting their employers as they worry they could lose their jobs or even be deported for working longer hours than their visas allow them to.

“Students are more concerned about paying for their living and education expenses, so if their wage covers the cost, even if it is under the legal wage, they will do it anyway,” she said.

The latest figures from the Fair Work ombudsman’s reveal that of the 340,000 international students in Australia, the agency received 181 requests for assistance from people on student visas.