Study finds Taiwanese victims of wage theft in Australia

11/21/2017 09:28 PM
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Image taken from Pixabay
Image taken from Pixabay

Taipei, Nov. 21 (CNA) A study on conditions faced by temporary workers in Australia has found that many international students and backpackers are paid less than the legal minimum wage in that country, with Asian workers from Taiwan, China and Vietnam more likely to be treated that way than those from English-speaking nations.

About three quarters (75-81 percent) of Taiwanese, Chinese and Vietnamese temporary workers were underpaid in Australia, compared with 35-41 percent of Americans, Irish and British workers, said the "Wage Theft in Australia" report, conducted by two law professors from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

The study also found that the problem of "wage theft" was widespread across numerous industries but most prevalent in food services and particularly severe in fruit and vegetable picking. It concluded that wage theft is "endemic" among temporary workers in Australia.

The legal minimum wage for a casual worker was 22.13 Australian dollars (US$16.77) per hour at the time of the survey, which was conducted online between September and December 2016.

However, the survey found that 30 percent of survey participants earned $12 per hour or less, and 46 percent were paid $15 per hour or less. It also found that 25 percent of all international students earned $12 per hour or less and 43 percent received $15 per hour or less.

As for backpackers, 32 percent earned $12 per hour or less and 46 percent received a hourly wage of $15 or less.

As one of 15 countries that allow Taiwanese travelers to take working holidays, Australia has been a popular travel destination over the past decade. In 2016, more than 22,000 Taiwanese headed to that country for working holidays.

Australia has also attracted Taiwanese students. Taiwan's Ministry of Education statistics show that as of April 30, 2017 there were 16,573 Taiwanese students studying in Australia, a big increase from 10,220 in 2015.

In fact, the number of Taiwanese students in Australia was second only to those studying in the U.S., the top destination for overseas studies among Taiwanese.

The UTS/UNSW study received responses from 4,322 temporary workers from 107 countries. "Its unprecedented scope indicates the breadth, depth and complexity of non-compliance with Australian labour law," said the report, which was published Tuesday.

The report also pointed out that temporary migrants comprise up to 11 percent of the Australian labor market.

Most participants (55 percent) were international students, followed by 33 percent who were backpackers (Working Holiday Makers), it said.

(By Elizabeth Hsu)


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