International students demand more work hours

Pressure is mounting on the federal government to provide an amnesty for exploited foreign workers who have exceeded their allowed working hours.

International students demand more work hours

International students demand more work hours Source: SBS

Media reports have revealed thousands of workers from 7-Eleven franchises have been underpaid.


Many of them are international students who now want to be allowed to work more hours.


Kevin describes himself as "just an average student."


But travelling to Australia from the Philippines to pursue his studies has not come without challenges.


"It's really expensive. And we can see that all over the news that Australia really does have one of the highest costs when it comes to studying. For instance accommodation is really expensive."


Kevin is one of many international students finding it hard to make ends meet.


After reports of worker exploitation by 7-Eleven stores and United Petroleum, some students are saying the laws are at fault.


In Australia, international students are permitted to work just 40 hours per fortnight, or 20 hours per week, while they are studying.


Kevin says that isn't enough.


He says the system creates desperate students, which leaves them vulnerable to exploitative employers.


"A lot of international students would be so desperate to work, even in abusive working environments, just to be able to support their needs, their weekly needs. And so I think that's where the exploitation by employers comes in, because they know there are heaps of international students who are willing to take on jobs which are not offering what should be offered."


Student representatives are noticing the toll it's taking.


Chris Wilson is President of the Postgraduate and Reasearch Student Association at the Australian National University (ANU).


International students make up nearly half of the postgraduate body at A-N-U, and Chris says cost of living is one of the biggest issues they raise.


"I usually hear and see the tiredness and fatigue of people trying to study full-time and trying to work as much as they can in order to afford what I wouldn't really consider basics, but food, rent, all of this sort of stuff."


There are roughly half a million international students in Australia, at any given moment.


They boost the economy by billions of dollars each year.


Now they are demanding recognition for their contribution.


Kofi Osei Bonsu is a student leader at the Canberra Institute of Technology.


He's rallying international students to ask the government to allow them to work longer hours.


"Students are really suffering in silence. I believe that, if the government increases the 20 hour limit to 30 - at least - it will help stop this exploitation....I want the government to do more."


So far the government hasn't indicated how they will tackle the issue.


Last week Immigration Minister Peter Dutton spoke on a proposal to grant amnesty to foreign workers, who want to speak out about their exploitation without fear of punishment for breaking the 20-hour rule.


"I think any of those matters obviously need to be properly investigated and the appropriate response be provided at the time, but there'll be a process for that to go through and we can make comment on that in due course."


3 min read
Published 8 September 2015 at 5:04pm
Source: SBS