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‘It’s everywhere’: the foreign students exposing Australia’s wage theft epidemic | Australia news | #students | #parents | #parenting | #parenting | #kids


What happened to Naomi* has happened a thousand times before, it’s just that now, she says, people are speaking out.

Two years ago, the 25-year-old moved from China to Australia to study a course in early childhood care and education.

At first her parents offered to support her so she could focus on study, but, when her father’s factory was forced to close when the pandemic began, she began looking for ways to support herself.

What she found was a job at a restaurant paying $12 an hour to work 11-hour days on the promise that after a month she would be bumped up to a $20 rate. That day, however, never came and instead she was told two weeks later to go home and wait for a call about her next shift – but the call never came.

“They gave hope and then they took it away,” Naomi said. “I am curious about how in Australia, if every law is so perfect, why these businesses can still get away with this here? They earn Australian money, but they take all the advantage into their pockets.”

Now Naomi is planning to fight a wage theft case against her former employer – thanks in part to a group of Chinese international students and travellers on working holiday visas who have begun to expose allegations of predatory behaviour by employers.

In what is an open secret, bosses are allegedly exploiting the lack of knowledge around Australia’s industrial relations system among migrant communities – particularly where they speak languages other than English – hiring people into jobs that pay as little as $5 an hour.

Wage theft is ‘farm-to-table. It happens on the farms up through to the restaurants, to the cleaning services’,


Wage theft is ‘farm-to-table. It happens on the farms up through to the restaurants, to the cleaning services’, according to the Working Women’s Centre. Photograph: David Silverman/Getty Images

Within the South Australian Chinese community, these roles are often advertised on AdelaideBBS.com, a Chinese-language news aggregator and community noticeboard.

Many of the advertisements listed on the site do not state the rate of pay and, even where they do list it, these rates can be be lowered during negotiations that take place by text message or in person.

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