Australia strip mines poor nations for international student slaves


The Times Higher Education reports that Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan kingdom, is in “uncharted territory” and suffering an acute “brain drain” following a major flight of its educated citizens to Australia to pursue higher education and work in unskilled jobs.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, around 1,000 Bhutanese arrived in Australia each year for education, accompanied by roughly the same number of dependents. Approximately two out of every three of these ‘students’ attend university.

However, arrival numbers have ballooned since the pandemic, with over 14,000 Bhutanese receiving primary or secondary student visas in the past financial year, nearly entirely for higher education study.

This represents nearly 2% of Bhutan’s population of slightly more than 780,000 people.


According to Bunty Avieson, a University of Sydney scholar who studies Bhutanese media and spent a year there training journalists, many are “older” students seeking master’s degrees.

“Coming out of the pandemic, it has been pretty tough economically – like it has everywhere – and that’s why there’s been a huge increase in numbers”, Avieson said.

Earlier this month, The ABC reported that Bhutan was “losing major proportions of its people, mainly to Australia”, with doctors and public servants joining the exodus.


“Those exiting are mostly educated and leaving professional jobs in Bhutan for blue-collar work”.

“The country lost more than 800 civil servants and several doctors last year, leading to a shortage”, noted the ABC.

Presumably, Bhutanese are attracted to Australia because its student visa offers some of the most generous work rights in the developed world.

Our post-study work visas are also incredibly generous, allowing graduates to live and work for years in Australia before applying for permanent residency.


Accordingly, Australia has also attracted huge numbers of ‘students’ from poorer nations like India and Nepal, seeking to work and live.

The impacts arising from this “brain drain” to Australia of Bhutan’s youngest and brightest are obviously negative.

Bhutan’s economic development will be stunted, ensuring that it forever remains a poor developing nation.


However, Bhutan can expect to receive financial remittances from Australia as their ‘students’ working menial jobs in Australia send funds home to their families.

The reality is that these international students are anything but an Australian export. They are really slave labour imports who send home what little money they can earn performing mostly unskilled work.

The student exodus to Australia will effectively turn Bhutan into a welfare state reliant on private foreign aid (remittances) while ensuring it remains dumbed-down and backward.


This strip-mining of Bhutan is also a negative for Australia, given the well-known issues associated with mass immigration, such as endemic wage theft, labour supply shocks, capital shallowing, low productivity, rental shortages, infrastructure bottlenecks, environmental degradation, and so on.

Once again, the fake left Labor-Greens caucus has been exposed as useful idiots of a system that trashes everyone in order to encourage inefficient, slave-driving enterprises and property developers.

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.