On 21 November, 2017, Laurie Berg and Bassina Farbenblum released the report Wage Theft in Australia: Findings of the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey. The survey is the most comprehensive study of wage theft and working conditions among international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants in Australia. It draws on responses from 4,322 temporary migrants across 107 nationalities of every region in the world, working in a range of jobs in all states and territories. Its unprecedented scope indicates that Australia has a large silent underclass of migrant workers, primarily made up of international students and backpackers, who are paid well below the minimum wage in at least 12 main industries.
Key findings include:
- Almost a third (30%) of international students and backpackers earned $12 per hour or less. This is about half the minimum wage for a casual employee in many of the jobs in which temporary migrants work.
Underpayment was widespread across numerous industries but was especially common in food services, and especially severe in fruit and vegetable picking
Severe underpayment was experienced by every major nationality of backpackers and international students in this country - at least one in five Americans, British, Indians, Brazilians, and Chinese earned roughly half the minimum wage.
At least three quarters of underpaid international students and backpackers know that they’re being paid less than the minimum wage. One reason they stay in these jobs paying illegally low wages is that the overwhelming majority believe that everyone else on their visa is earning less than the minimum wage too.
A substantial number also work in conditions that could amount to criminal forced labour, including being required to pay cash back to their employer after receiving their wages, having their passport confiscated by their employer, or paying an upfront 'deposit' for their job