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Budget 2021: International students in hospitality and tourism sector may no longer face cap on working hours

Seven out of the 14 workers employed at Raj Singh’s Indian cafe are international students. Source: Supplied by Punjabi Curry Cafe

International students and restaurant owners have welcomed Australian government’s considerations to remove cap on working hours for students employed in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

In the Budget tomorrow, the federal government’s focus is expected to be on reviving Australia’s economy that has been hit hard due to the pandemic.

While the overall economic recovery appears to be on track, there are some sectors that are desperately seeking help.


Highlights:

  • Under a new measure, international students in hospitality and tourism may be allowed to work more than 40 hours/fortnight
  • There are currently 300,000 international students in Australia working with a fortnightly cap of 40 hours
  • This cap was removed for international students in healthcare and aged care much earlier

Melbourne’s Raj Singh, who has been running Indian restaurant Punjabi Curry Café for the past 13 years, says the hospitality industry has “seen the worst” during these unprecedented times.

“The lockdowns were a bit too much to handle. We suffered heavy business losses and couldn’t retain many of our staff.

“Now we’re back in business but struggle to find suitable workers. My main chef who went to India for a short time, is still stuck there due to closure of international borders,” he told SBS Punjabi.

Raj Singh is the owner-operator of Punjabi Curry Cafe located in Collingwood, Melbourne.
Raj Singh is the owner-operator of Punjabi Curry Cafe located in Collingwood, Melbourne.
Supplied

Mr Singh has seven international students working at his restaurant. He now sees a “ray of hope” after he learnt the working hours cap is likely to be removed for international students employed in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

"It is a welcome statement from the government. It will help hospitality and tourism businesses to survive and thrive.

“I am optimistic the new measure will not only support our industry but may also potentially be beneficial for international students working in these sectors,” he said.

According to a government estimate, there are currently around 300,000 international students in Australia working with a fortnightly cap of 40 hours.

It is also estimated that the hospitality sector currently employs around 500,000 people and the expected forthcoming changes may not only help businesses deal with labour shortages but also help improve the economic conditions of international students working in this industry.

A survey by Unions NSW found that many international students are forced to rely on cash-in-hand jobs for a living.

Melbourne’s Garry Singh is an international student enrolled in a hospitality course in a local college. He is waiting with bated breath for this new rule to take effect.

“It is no secret that international students were the worst-affected during the lockdowns. The governments didn’t do much to help them during this tough phase,” he told SBS Punjabi.

“This the least they could have done! Although it is still not too late, I wish it had happened much earlier as that would have surely helped relieve our financial stress as it did for international students working in the healthcare and aged care sectors,” Mr Singh added.

More details in this SBS News Story by Tom Stayner

Click on this audio button to listen to the full audio report in Punjabi 

Budget 2021: International students in hospitality and tourism sector may no longer face cap on working hours
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