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

See all articles by Iain Campbell

Iain Campbell

RMIT University - PVC Design & Social Context

Martina Boese

La Trobe University

Joo-Cheong Tham

University of Melbourne

Date Written: October 1, 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Campbell, Iain and Boese, Martina and Tham, Joo-Cheong, Inhospitable Workplaces? International Students and Paid Work in Food Services (October 1, 2016). Australian Journal of Social Issues Vol. 51 No. 3, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2849687

Iain Campbell

RMIT University - PVC Design & Social Context ( email )

124 La Trobe Street
Melbourne, 3000
Australia
+(61 3) 9925 3137 (Phone)

Martina Boese

La Trobe University ( email )

Department of Social Inquiry
Bundoora, 3086
Australia

Joo-Cheong Tham (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053
Australia

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