Half of Australian temporary visa holders underpaid

The latest Department of Home Affairs quarterly visa data reported another increase in the number temporary visas on issue, hitting a record high 2,260,000 in trend terms in the year to June 2019:

As noted last month by the Grattan Institute, an increasing proportion of immigration into Australia is relatively low-skilled, with many of these migrants working below minimum wage, thus dragging down overall wage growth across the economy:

About three quarters of net migrants to Australia today are not high-skill…

Low-skill migrants might also put downward pressure on wages (if accurately measured). The measured wages of those aged 20 to 34 have not risen as fast as the wages of older workers for some time (Figure 7)…

Australia is now running a predominantly low-skill migration system. People from this system form a material proportion of the younger workforce. Because of visa conditions, many of these migrants have incentives to work for less than minimum wages, and there is anecdotal evidence that many do…

On Friday, The SMH reported on a speech by Professor Alan Fels, who claimed that around half of temporary migrant workers were being underpaid, and that this was contributing to the Australian economy’s stubbornly low wage growth:

“Once it was maybe just a small number of people who were being underpaid but there’s enough data to say that there are several hundred thousand currently being seriously underpaid,” [Professor Fels] told the Melbourne Press Club this week.

Professor Fels chaired the Migrant Workers Taskforce, which was established after the 7/11 fast-food chain underpayment scandal in 2015. Professor Fels’ inquiry found that up to 50 per cent of temporary migrant workers may be being underpaid.

He said the scale of underpayment was having the effect of slowing the pace at which wages grew across the country.

None of this is new. The 2019 Report of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce that Professor Fels chaired concluded “the problem of wage underpayment is widespread and has become more entrenched over time” and showed that at least half of temporary migrant workers are being underpaid, with exploitation of international students and backpackers deemed “endemic”.

In a similar vein, the 2016 report by the Senate Education and Employment References Committee, entitled A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of Temporary Work Visa Holders found international students and backpackers were “consistently reported to suffer widespread exploitation in the Australian workforce”.

Whereas yesterday’s open letter from academics claimed modern slavery is rife amongst temporary migrant workers:

In 2015, Four Corners revealed that food was being picked, packed and processed by exploited workers and sold nationwide, including by supermarkets and fast food chains.

It exposed crime syndicates acting as labour hire companies, selling migrant labourers to work at cut prices. They were paid as little as $3.95 an hour, worked 22-hour shifts, slept on dog beds, and some were forced to perform sexual acts to extend their visa.

In 2018, the Fair Work Ombudsman released a five-year study detailing conditions experienced by seasonal harvest workers in Australia. It completed 836 investigations, involving 444 growers and 194 labour-hire contractors. It recovered $1,022,698 for 2503 employees, but it believes the full extent of underpayments is significantly worse…

Hundreds of thousands of people enter Australia on temporary visas each year, and many others are working here having overstayed their visas.

Migrant workers are vulnerable of falling victim to modern slavery because they often have limited English skills, lack knowledge of labour rights – which are often limited because of restrictive visa conditions, and they frequently find themselves in financially precarious conditions…

The fact of the matter is that the massive increase in temporary visas has entrenched entire industries into becoming dependent on cheap migrant workers to perform low-skilled jobs.

The widespread abuses uncovered across the franchising sector (e.g. 7-Eleven, Domino’s and Caltex), hospitality, farming, construction, food processing and supermarkets, among other areas, is bonafide evidence that Australia’s visa system is broken and in desperate need of an overhaul.

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  1. The Horrible Scott Morrison MP

    Foreign labour is necessary because Aussies want to be paid huge sums for doing menial tasks. 20 bucks an hour plus super plus all kinds of leave and entitlements for flipping a burger or giving a hand shandy – leftists have broken the structure of the economy.

    • Jumping jack flash

      “Foreign labour is necessary because Aussies want to be paid huge sums for doing menial tasks. 20 bucks an hour plus super plus all kinds of leave and entitlements for flipping a burger or giving a hand shandy”

      So true.

      But it needs to be that way. How can anyone possibly afford 400K worth of debt to buy a basic starter house on the fringes on anything LESS than $20/hour? In fact $20/hour would be the absolute bare minimum.

    • Exactly – The Australian minimum wage is now the highest in the world!
      We pay too much for unskilled labour. People are willing and eager to work for less.

      I hope ScoMo abandons this minimum wage aberration of the market and lets the free market decide on the price of labour.

      • So to be clear, your view is at a time of multi-generational low wage share, it’s not so much wages are too high, it’s just ‘menial labour’, i.e. the type of labour you actively seek to avoid, thee type most Australian won’t work because the wage is too low… that requires us to import third worlders, where menial labour is still a step up from their sh*thole countries

        Is paid too high relative to ‘skilled labour’. Who is buying the world’s most expensive housing? Menial labour, or the higher paid labour whose wages are too close to the wage rate of ‘menial’ labour?

    • So in 1975, wage share was approximately 62%, profit share approximately 24%, Australian GDP in 1974 was $88.8 billion. So Labour was taking $55 billion, and capital taking $21 billion.


      In 2017, Australian GDP was $1.386 trillion – https://countryeconomy.com/gdp/australia

      Wage share is 53% ($734 billion) vs Profit share 37% ($512 billion)

      So in this time of perpetual bleating of ‘business competitiveness.

      Wages: $52 billion -> $734 billion = +1234%
      Profit: $$21 billion -> $512 billion = +2306%

      Our lack of competitiveness is not our wages, it’s our profit share. Australian companies want to extract huge sums for offering menial products.

      But it all boils down to… if you want to pay workers less, if you want their spending power to be less, what demand to you want withdrawn from the economy? What sectors do you want to see obtain less profit? Who do you expect your customers to be?

  2. This destroys a couple of lies that are peddled by right wing pricks.

    “Aussies have an advantage over foreigners” and “there is something something wrong with Aussies because foreigners are hired instead of Aussies”.

    • the only people pushing the mass immigration agenda are leftists. These right-wingers you speak about are nothing more than neo-liberal globalists allied with the useful idiots on the left so as to bully people into not expressing their views about immigration and other policy matters the left and the their neo-liberal buddies hold dear.

    • The most obvious argument is labour heads to where there is a better outcome.

      They’re a resource and resources freely allocate itself in a ‘free market’, that’s the theory isn’t it?

      Why do you think there are so many mortgage brokers now? Because we need the stress of writing fraudulent loans for 0.3% trail, rather than the leisurely social activity of picking fruit?

      No, because it is easy money for little effort. Price has to reflect where labour wants to allocate itself, or otherwise make itself more attractive. Also, it’s not a case of a generous welfare system gifting dole bludgers a way out.

      “Dole bludgers” are no longer a thing in Australia. The federal government collects $500 billion, give $10 bil to dole recipients.


      We have also implemented NAIRU, which is specifically structured to ensure a certain number of people are consigned to unemployment, if even against their will… for the purposes of ensuring capital gets an perpetual, unearned gain via distorting inflation figures.

      In other words, the most marginal of our workforce are given ‘sit down, shut up money’ at below poverty levels so the rest of us get a free, unearned gift. Stop complaining about the dole you miserly pricks.

      Back the the labour side, the supply and demand… business now gets a free out to always top up the ‘supply’ side at infinte levels to give themselves more bargaining power.

      Real wages have remained virtually static for 40 years. The wealth created by the last 40 years of productivity gains have pretty much been captured entirely by capital.

      But the thing is, there is no ‘optimal level’ for them. A wage / profit share where everything runs smoothly. It’s just “more”.

      Pro-market is not pro-business. A market has the consumer side as well, and people need money to spend to be a consumer. It is there claim to the economy. It is pointless to continuously erode their claim to the economy, otherwise you don’t have one.

      it’s the real point about the game of monopoly, it’s an extrapolation of the gini co-efficient. Once wealth is concentrated, the game stops.

    • A popular boozy business in the Macedon Ranges recently received 1.5m from the state government to expand their business, but won’t employee locals and preferring to employ visa holders from overseas, heard this myself, “there isn’t any jobs as we have just employed someone from Canada and we are still waiting for them to come over” The government wonders why unemoyment is so high in the regional areas.

  3. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Who gives? Really? I’m sure they’re thankful for the opportunity to live within our great nation.

  4. On the bright side, it means less money is remitted back home and stays here instead as profits to local business owners 😉

    What’s the issue?

    • I’m fairly sure the same investigation would reveal a significant portion of those business are migrant run (given they are best placed to exploit those temporary workers). If you are engaging in systematic wage fraud it’s highly unlikely you’re a compliant tax payer either.

      End result = all that ill gotten cash flows into property, luxury cars & goods (also foreign owned) or is simply repatriated back home…… strayan economy mate!

    • The real issue is standards.

      The western world had them, that’s why they were SO FAR ahead of the world.

      It set a higher standard for culture, mannerisms, public discourse, hygeine, science…


      With every erosion of truth, be it:
      All cultures are equal
      The nature of men and women are the same
      Men putting a dress on and calling themselves women are actually women.
      It’s OK to erode building standards to the point of flammable cladding
      Debasing the balance between labour and profit share
      Crushing Civil rights, be it industrial rights, free speech,
      etc, etc.

      You erode the truth, and it makes it easier to implement the next lie.

      We’re better than getting our $5 strawberry punnet for $3, or keeping big mac meals at $7.35 but we’re doing everything to reduce our standards, to accept less than better, to have no standards, to be third world.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Yep! I’d love to hire a few Filo helpers. In Singapore and Hong Kong Filo good-girls outnumber the rest like the Thais. They don’t seem to work here so would be an exotic addition to the household.

      • You’ll soon be able to enjoy Indonesian girls too, as the FTA agreement we signed with Indonesia allows Indonesian companies in Aus to pay Indonesian wage rates to Indonesians.

        • reusachtigeMEMBER

          Really? That’s awesome, and quite exotic, unless you’re a regular traveler to Bali of course.

          In Singapore and HK the Indo chicks are the cheapest and in Singapore you don’t have to give them Sunday off like you do for Filos. So these birds know how to work. Cool.

  5. they know what they’re doing though. the people accepting these wages are willing to be paid a little less so they can get permanent residency later. they’re less victims and more willing co-conspirators. the real victims are the under and unemployed australians who cant find work because these people are clogging up the labor market in their place.

    • You’d do the same, stagmal. So would I. You can’t blame Johnny Foreigner for grabbing the opportunity presented to him to extricate himself from the god-awful hand he was dealt at birth. The fault lies at home with our traitorous elites, as well as (to a lesser degree) those who are doing the exploiting.

      • like a flat in chongqing these days is that much worse than a 12 hour mattress share house at the back of top ryde though

        a lot of them arent even third world or poor, heaps of euro and first world rorters, as well as rich foreign students who live about as well as you or i back home

        the soft touch attitude we’ve had on these ppl is what has allowed them to get away with as much as they have, we need to come down like a tonne of bricks on E V E R Y O N E involved, no mercy and no quarter, immediate deportations for the wagies with no possibility of appeal and life time indentured servitude for the employers caught hiring them

        • Fat chance of a crackdown. Gone are the days when Immigration (Border Force) Compliance each week removed dozens caught on expired visas or working illegally. After the Rau and Alvarez fiascoes, Compliance officers spend more time doing admin bulls** rather than being out in the field.

  6. Our labour market is now based on south of USA. As the kanaks were banned, we now let the new slaves pay to fly into their “wonderful” new world.

    Likewise, as Michael W shows, the profits from this cheap labour flow tax free offshore😡

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Oh FFS! They’re not slaves. They are just being paid a more fair market value for their services. They can fck off anytime if they want to. You commies with your BS propaganda need a heavy purging.

  7. Jumping jack flash

    Personally I’m surprised its not more than half.

    The only wage inflation we’ve had over the past decade has been because of underpaying these people while they perform their duties competently. The business owner gets the rest.

    I read this morning that our masters are STILL wondering, puzzled and perplexed about why there has been no wage inflation, some of the lowest in the world in fact, even though everyone is richer than ever on other people’s debt and our houses are the most expensive.

    They look at unions, they look at this, they look at that, they blame employees for not asking for more money, they look everywhere except what is staring them in the face.
    We have the lowest wage growth, and the highest debt…
    surely that has got to mean something.

    But no. Banks are in charge so it couldn’t possibly be the debt’s fault. I mean, look how cute it is… widdle debtty wetty.
    Repayment of the debt plus the interest sucking out all spare capacity from wages couldn’t possibly be the reason for low wages.. no.

    • I know! I mean sometimes I just can’t decide if I should be proud of their ability to project genuine perplexity or of their gold medal worthy ability to hold cognitive dissonance at bay in the public space. Because as sure as the earth revolves around the sun they have to understand what they’ve done, right?

      • Jumping jack flash

        Banks and bankers are in charge. They exist only to create debt and only can exist because of the interest the debt generates. There is no way they would accept blame for generating too much debt and destroying everything because of its interest repayments. There is also no way they would allow anyone to say it.

        It is just so obvious.
        Once the debt and its maintenance is placed into the picture, everything else they’re doing makes perfect sense.

  8. More migrant guestworkers than Gaddafi.

    2.561 million TR / SCV migrant guestworkers.
    Their ‘average economic activity’?
    $43.6k (Treasury)
    Half the Australian average GDP per Capita.

    That’s a $116 billion migrant guestworker sub economy.
    Our single largest industry is the migrant guestworker racket.

    Who lower our Gdp per Capita by over 8%
    Lowering wages by 6.8%.

    87% or 2.23 million in just 2 cities.

    1.23 million TR in Sydney, almost 1 in 4 people
    1.0 million TR in Melbourne, 1 in 5 people.

    Vast swathes of ex Australian low end housing acquired by foreign criminal syndicates and converted to fetid migrant only slums in cash in hand bunk share.

    Chinese, North & South East Asian, Nepalese, Bangladeshi, Arab, African migrant guestworker slums..

    Creating mass Australian unemployed
    Australia homelessness
    Lowered wages
    Higher costs of living

    Third world filth & squalor
    Guangzhou meets Mumbai & Cairo

    Sucking our dams dry
    Adding to our emissions
    Clogging up public transport
    Congesting our roads

    Vice & crime
    Non assimilating
    Destroying education
    Destroying our standard of living
    Only here to lie, cheat & steal.