Chinese international students lured into prostitution


The exploitation of international students across the Australian economy has been well documented.

For example, the 2016 Senate Committee report, entitled A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of Temporary Work Visa Holders, found international students “were consistently reported to suffer widespread exploitation in the Australian workforce”. The report also noted that “students are ‘generally young, low skilled and with lower than average English language skills’ and typically work in low skill, casual occupations”. Furthermore, as “students do not enjoy the same regulatory protections as 457 visa workers,.. a large portion of the hours that international students worked was undocumented (and unpaid)”.

The 2019 Report of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce also concluded that “the problem of wage underpayment is widespread and has become more entrenched over time” and showed that around one-quarter of international students were paid around half the legal minimum wage, with exploitation of international students deemed “endemic”.

With this background in mind, it was disturbing to read that Chinese international students have been lured into prostitution with promises of earning thousands of dollars in “easy money” with “no experience required”:


Chinese job website and forum is hosting hundreds of adverts for jobs in massage parlours across Melbourne, including Dandenong, Casey, Kingston and Stonnington, promising thousands of dollars a week to students.

Monash University Chinese Student Association vice-president Kai Zhang said such promises should ring alarm bells. “I’ve seen jobs ads offering thousands of dollars a week and obviously that’s indicating sexual favours,” he said.

One job ad on the website states “the female masseur is invited to be warm and responsible … ages below 33, with a work visa or student (visa)”.

Another promised “commission can reach 47-50 per cent. Average weekly $1100 plus. Company can help ­arrange accommodation.”

Genevieve Gilbert, director of not-for-profit organisation Pink Cross, which tackles sexual exploitation, said international students were victims.

“What we’re seeing in some cases is women getting paid below minimum wage then ­relying on the extra money from providing sexual services,” she said…

Inspector Jodie Buckley of the police’s sex industry co-ordination unit said… “police have spoken to ­illegal workers representing a range of backgrounds. Some of the workers have included international students,” Insp Buckley said…

Australian Adult Entertainment Industry spokesman William Albon said there were hundreds of international students working illegally in the sex industry in Melbourne.

“They are recruited direct from the colleges they are attending, often by a notice on college noticeboard, some are offered the choice — cleaning $8 an hour or a lot more for sex work,” he said.

International students are at the forefront of migrant exploitation and wage theft across the Australian economy. And as long as international students enrolments continue to balloon, so too will exploitation and the erosion of wages.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.