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Backpackers, Students Ripped Off In Australian Jobs

21 November 2017

Concerningly, however, the report also dispelled another common myth that global students were being taken advantage of due to their naivety, with 73% indicating they were aware of the minimum wage.

Farbenblum said the study dispels the myth that underpayment occurs simply because temporary migrants don't know the minimum wage.

On average, Asian workers received lower wages than people from the United Kingdom and North America.

The study issued Tuesday said most of the workers employed as fruit pickers to dish washers earned well below Australia's minimum wage, with people on working-holiday or student visas accounting for 11 percent of the nation's jobs, mostly in restaurants and takeaways, meatpacking, cleaning and child care.

Mr Smith also called for tougher penalties for employers who deliberately underpay workers.

The UNSW Sydney and UTS study found wage theft is endemic among worldwide students, backpackers and other temporary migrants, a substantial number of whom experience severe underpayment.

"This report partly supports that but it also partly raises concerns about that..."

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She encouraged workers who suspect they're being ripped off to come forward, reassuring them that they have worked with the Department of Immigration to ensure they'll be protected.

The report also found that a majority of workers knew they were being underpaid, but many did not expect to receive the legal minimum.

Wage theft has been on the national rader since the 7-Eleven scandal broke previous year.

Similar scandals hit pizza chains Dominos and Pizza Hut.

The joint UTS and UNSW study found 86 percent of global students and backpackers earning up to $15 per hour believe that many, most or all other people on their visa are paid less than the basic national minimum wage.

Report co-author and UTS Law Professor Laurie Berg told SBS News it was the first study of its kind in Australia.

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 worldwide students earn $12 or less.

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

A small percentage have been made to pay up-front "deposits" to secure a job in Australia or return cash to their employer after being paid, while others have had passports confiscated by employers.

Available in 12 languages as well as English.

2,392 respondents were worldwide students; 1,705 were enrolled at a university and 523 at a vocational or English-language college.

Almost half the cases the ombudsman pursued in court involved visa workers.

The study also found 44 percent of overseas workers are paid in cash, including two in three waiters, kitchen-hands and food servers.

Half of overseas workers reported either never or rarely ever receiving a pay slip, while nearly half said they were paid in cash.

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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.

Backpackers, Students Ripped Off In Australian Jobs