Taking a Taxi Ride to an Inhospitable Workplace

Inside Story, 2015

3 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2019

See all articles by Joo-Cheong Tham

Joo-Cheong Tham

University of Melbourne

Martina Boese

La Trobe University

Iain Campbell

RMIT University - PVC Design & Social Context

Date Written: June 5, 2015


International student workers are ubiquitous in the capital cities of Australia. Take a taxi in Sydney, there is a good chance the driver is an international student; walk into a cafe in Melbourne, the staff are likely to include international students; purchase petrol in Adelaide and the attendant may very well be an international student. According to the best evidence, more than half of the hundreds of thousands of international students in Australia engage in paid work.

Given the financial pressures many of them face, this is hardly surprising. Living costs are higher here than in their home countries; student fees amount to thousands of dollars annually; and international students don’t have access to Austudy and other forms of government assistance.

What might come as a surprise is the fact that exploitation of international student workers is widespread. A 2005 study based on 200 interviews with international students found that 58 per cent of interviewees were paid below the minimum wage, earning between $7 and $15 per hour. A recent survey of more than 200 international students by a union, United Voice, found that 60 per cent earned less than the national minimum wage ($16.37 per hour), with a quarter of respondents receiving $10 or less per hour.

Suggested Citation

Tham, Joo-Cheong and Boese, Martina and Campbell, Iain, Taking a Taxi Ride to an Inhospitable Workplace (June 5, 2015). Inside Story, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3313457

Joo-Cheong Tham (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053

Martina Boese

La Trobe University ( email )

Department of Social Inquiry
Bundoora, 3086

Iain Campbell

RMIT University - PVC Design & Social Context ( email )

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

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