Job Ads Targeting International Students Offering Below the Minimum Wage

If you’re currently working or looking for work in Australia, you need to be aware of some concerning new information surrounding illegal payments. 

The latest research has revealed that almost 90% of job ads written in foreign languages are offering rates of pay below minimum wage.

Unions NSW checked over 3,000 job adverts written in languages such as Chinese and Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Nepali and Portuguese. They found that almost nine out of 10 were advertising pay rates below the minimum wage. If an Australian job ad is written in a foreign language, it’s more than likely trying to reach international students or migrant workers. 

One international student’s story

As reported by the ABC, Chilean student Anna* recently encountered this situation when she was looking for some work while she studied in Sydney. Anna already had two years of professional cleaning experience when she applied for a cleaning position at a commercial cleaning company on the online marketplace Gumtree. 

The company’s job advertisement asked for an experienced cleaner, but Anna was only offered $20 per hour as payment. The legal minimum wage for a casually employed cleaner with experience is $27.40 an hour.  

When Anna didn’t accept the offer, the owner agreed to pay her $25 per hour. This was still an illegally low rate for Anna’s experience. In addition, student visas only allow international students to work 20 hours a week during the academic semester but Anna’s boss asked her to work extra hours for cash payment. 

“He offered to pay me the first 20 hours with taxes and the rest would be in cash. He paid me just the first 20 hours, but the rest — I never saw the money,” she said. 

Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is the organisation that deals with working rights and protections in Australia. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FWO had to pause all in-person inspections of businesses and as such, job adverts offering illegal pay rates have risen more than 14 percent during this time. 

Your working rights as an international student 

International students have exactly the same rights as Australian workers. Every worker in Australia is legally required to be paid the minimum wage. The current minimum wage is $19.84 but your own wage might be higher, depending on your position and your experience. If you are employed as a casual, an extra amount called ‘Casual Loading’ will usually bring your minimum hourly wage up to $24.80 if you are 21 or older. In some cases, you can legally be paid less than $19.84 per hour, for example if you are under the age of 21, but you would still need to get the casual loading if you are a casual.

All employees are required to have a Tax File Number before they start work. Your Tax File Number is given to your employer and used to determine the amount of tax you will pay. Your weekly pay, tax and superannuation payments will be recorded on a payslip, which you should receive within one working day of getting paid. This way, you can check that your payments are correct. 

Australian employees are also entitled to fair breaks, hours and working conditions. You can read more about your workers rights and protections here and here

Where to go for help

If you think your workplace might be taking advantage of you or you would simply like to know more about your working rights in Australia then you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman. 

Some students might be worried that their visa could be affected by speaking to the FWO but you can rest assured that you can not lose your visa this way. The service will simply help you sort out any issues you may have encountered while working in Australia. It’s also free to use! 

*Names have been changed to protect identities