Inhospitable Workplaces? International Students and Paid Work in Food Services
Australian Journal of Social Issues Vol. 51 No. 3, 2016
21 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2016
Date Written: October 1, 2016
Most international students in Australia take up paid work during their studies, generally as part‑time employees in low‑wage, low‑skill labour markets. Though little is known about the detail of their work experiences, scattered reports suggest that wages and working conditions are often poor and pose significant issues of social justice. This article examines the characteristics of jobs held by one group of international students, drawing on in‑depth qualitative interviews that form part of a case study of Melbourne’s café, restaurant and takeaway food services sector. The evidence indicates that precariousness in employment is widespread in this sector and that it centres on underpayment and non‑payment of wages, in breach of labour regulation. The article suggests that such illegal employer practices are facilitated by use of undeclared casual work. Underpayments are most severe in what are typically regarded as ethnic cafes and restaurants, which concentrate on employment of international students, but they are also widespread in mainstream cafes and restaurants, where international students share precarious work conditions with other workers. The findings underline the case for more concerted research and new policy initiatives.
Keywords: international students, labour regulation, low‑paid workers, precarious work, casual work
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