28 January 2022 8:15

Migrants on employee-sponsored visas exploited in Australia, reveals survey

Sixty-five per cent of temporary visa holders in Australia have experienced underpayment.

Melbourne-based Migrant Workers Centre’s report that surveyed 700 migrants has found that migrants who are on employer-sponsored visas are often exploited and suffer from very high levels of stress.

The findings published in Lives in Limbo: The Experiences of Migrant Workers Navigating Australia’s Unsettling Migration System that draws upon over fifty in-depth interviews “reveal a broken migration system that sets workers up for exploitation and perpetual uncertainty.”

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Matt Kunkel, CEO of Migrant Workers Centre, said in a statement:

“The nation’s migration program has structurally brewed a population of precarious workers.

Strengthening pathways to permanent residency will provide social and economic benefits to all workers in Australia.”

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According to this report, sixty-five per cent of temporary visa holders in Australia have experienced underpayment.

Further, one in four surveyed said that they have been exploited in the workplace.

It also found that ninety-one per cent of those who were underpaid, were on temporary visas with no pathway to permanent residency in Australia.

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Image source: Lives in Limbo – Migrant Workers Centre’

The report notes that on average, it takes workers 5.1 years to acquire PR with the longest wait time being 13 years.

“The Government constantly changes the rules of the game to create a perpetually temporary class of workers who are keeping our economy going, but with limited workplace protections and social safety nets.”

The report observes that despite Australia relying on overseas workers from unskilled backpackers to highly trained doctors and IT workers, the visa system often left workers with a high level of uncertainty, stress, and open to exploitation.

It points to loopholes in visa programs such as employer-sponsored visas which leave workers vulnerable to exploitative bosses and visa scams, and often tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

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Image source: Matt Kunkel – LinkedIn.
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Matt Kunkel adds:

“Workers on temporary visas experience workplace exploitation because the system creates barriers to reporting industrial wrongdoing.

Visas expire before lengthy court processes can be completed, or the loss of employment can lead to the disruption of many years of settlement.”

He suggests a complete overhaul of the present visa system to minimise the exploitation of migrant workers.

“We need an overhaul of the visa system so workers’ lives don’t rest solely in the hands of a single employer, and all long-term migrants have an opportunity for permanent residency.”

Due to fears about the Omicron COVID variant, the Australian government has once again delayed its plan to allow skilled workers back into the country.

In a statement, the Australian government said that the decision to pause the reopening of the borders was made on the basis of medical advice. 

“The National Security Committee has taken the necessary and temporary decision to pause the next step to safely reopen Australia to international skilled and student cohorts, as well as humanitarian, working holiday maker and provisional family visa holders from December 1 until December 15.” 

International students and skilled migrants who had booked their flights and accommodation have lost significant amounts of money as a result of the delay. 

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