Albo engineers Indian student slave worker boom


The latest visa data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows there was a record 285,600 net student visa arrivals in the year to May:

Net temporary visa arrivals

According to the Department of Education, this surge in student visa arrivals have been driven by India, Nepal, Colombia and the Philippines, which each experienced explosive growth in student numbers in the year to April:

International students numbers

China is still Australia’s largest source of international students (129,146), but India (95,791) is quickly catching up:

International students by nationality

Earlier this month, Labor MP Julian Hill called for ‘nuclear’ reforms to stop international education providers teaching poor quality courses and to stop student visas from being used as a “low-rent work visa”.


“Our student visa must not be used as a low-rent work visa”, Hill argued.

“Most providers do good things but there are a significant minority that are dodgy, selling work visas”.

“What benefit is Australia getting from tens of thousands of international students enrolled in certificates and diplomas in marketing, leadership and business?”, Hill asked.


Hill said “rapacious onshore agents” were “destroying the integrity of the sector” by “bribing and stealing students from universities to low-cost VET providers with kickbacks, discounts and incentives”.

It’s “time to prune the tree to save the tree”, Hill demanded.

The majority of international students are coming from poorer countries such as India, Nepal, and Bhutan, not to study, but to work and live.


Given that the Albanese government has recently signed two migration deals with India, the issue is likely to intensify.

In May, the Albanese Government signed the Australia-India Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement, which contains the following provisions:

  • Five year student visas, with no limit on the number of Indians who can study in Australia.
  • Indian graduates of Australian tertiary institutions can apply to work without visa sponsorship for up to eight years.
  • The Mobility Arrangement for Talented Early Professionals Scheme allows 3000 top graduates and early career professionals from India to work and live in Australia for up to two years. They can apply for a permanent skilled visa, and their spouses will be able to work indefinitely.
  • Indians can obtain three-month visitor visas for family or commercial purposes (no limit).

The Albanese Government also recently signed the Mechanism for Mutual Recognition of Qualifications, which requires Australia to recognise Indian vocational and university graduates to be “holding the comparable AQF qualification for the purposes of admission to higher education”.

It also requires Australia to recognise Indian vocational and university graduates to “to be holding comparable Australian qualifications for the purposes of general employment, where such qualifications are required”.

Ghost colleges abound in India, providing bogus certificates, and some students will almost certainly end up in Australia.


Several media stories have also surfaced lately warning of widespread visa fraud and scams targeting Indian students travelling to Australia for work and residency.

India’s media is salivating at these new migration deals, with The Times of India reporting a “huge increase in number of Indian students heading to Australia”:

Times of India

“Some of the factors that are drawing Indian students to Australia include availability of scholarships and research fellowships, extended post study work rights, and, recently, the mutual recognition of academic qualifications”, The Times of India reports.

An Australian High Commission spokesperson told the Times of India that Australia offers “the most generous post-study work rights in the world”.

“Australia and India finalised a progressive mutual qualifications recognition mechanism meaning students can be reassured that what they study in either country will enable them to undertake further higher level study if they like or be valued for the purposes of general employment”, the spokesperson said.


“Australia actioned extended post-study work provisions from this month and this makes it undoubtedly very attractive”, said says Ravi Lochan Singh, MD of educational consultancy Global Reach.

Therefore, Australians should expect the torrent of Indian students to continue.

With it, young Australians will be priced out of rental homes and jobs by ‘students’ willing to work for much lower rates, while capital city infrastructure will be strained by the weight of hundreds of thousands more people.

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.