Indian and other foreign students in Victoria face exploitation

June 13th, 2008 - 11:49 am ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, June 13 (IANS) Almost 60 percent of the international students who work part-time in the state of Victoria in Australia are paid below minimum wage rates. The findings from a new study released Thursday come close on the heels of protests by taxi drivers, many of them Indian students, against working conditions.

The study, by academics from Monash and Melbourne universities, based on interviews with 200 international students enrolled in nine universities across the state, found as many as 58.1 percent students surveyed were paid below A$15 an hour, with 33.9 percent receiving less than A$10 an hour.

The study also revealed, what has been long known, that many of these full-fee paying international students are often pressured to take jobs not wanted by local workers.

At least a third work more than the 20 hours allowed under the study visa to meet the rising costs of living and fees, compelling them to take jobs “off the books” with no industrial relations protection.

Besides driving cabs, many Indian students are night cleaners in city office blocks, others work in fast food cafes and restaurants or do other odd jobs to support themselves.

Most Indian students prefer not to air their troubles and suffer in silence.

As Gautam Gupta told The Age newspaper, “We don’t discuss things unless we are very proud of them. And many students are ashamed.”

A total of 34,146 student visas were granted to Indian citizens in the year ending June 2007. Nearly half of all overseas Indian students coming to Australia enrol in Victorian educational institutions.

One of the academics involved in the study, Professor Chris Nyland, told The Age: “The Rudd government has shown no sign of recognising this as an issue. There was a 94-page higher education discussion document (from the Rudd government) that was issued. I have gone through that and there is lots of reference to international education, lots of references to international student fees, nothing in there about international student welfare.”

India today is the second largest source of overseas students and a significant contributor to Australia’s international education market, which is worth Australian $12 billion ($11 billion) to the national economy.

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