A third of Australian migrant workers are paid less than half minimum wage

A new report shows that migrant workers in Australia are among the worst paid in the country, and most are suffering in silence.
By: | November 7, 2018


A new report, Wage Theft in Australia, reveals undesirable working conditions among migrant workers, as almost a third received half the casual minimum wage at $12 an hour or less.

Co-authored by Bassina Farbenblum, a senior law lecturer at University of New South Wales, and Laurie Berg of the University of Technology Sydney, it found that the conditions are worst in jobs heavy on manual labour, such as fruit and vegetable-picking and farm work.

Some 15% of those workers are earning $5 an hour or less, while a third (31%) earn $10 an hour or less.

With more than 4,000 responses from 107 countries, the survey was opened to anyone who worked in Australia on a temporary visa.

It highlighted that “for every 100 underpaid migrant workers, only three went to the fair work ombudsman”, but their effort was futile with most getting nothing back.

Many barriers stand in the way of reporting wage-theft, with more than a quarter fear losing their visa upon speaking up, as they have been threatened by employers.

To tackle these cases of workplace exploitation, the report recommends that “improved support services and immigration safeguards would encourage more workers to report their employer and to successfully seek redress.”

“Our study confirms that Australia has a large, silent underclass of underpaid migrant workers,” Farbenblum said. “The scale of unclaimed wages is likely well over a billion dollars.”