Highlights:

  • A new study has found temporary visa holders in Australia face underpayment and exploitation
  • The Migrant Workers Centre interviewed 700 migrant workers to compile new data on their experience
  • It found most skilled workers face at least a five-year wait to gain permanent residency

Sixty-five percent of temporary visa holders in Australia have experienced underpayment, while one in four say they have been exploited in the workplace, a survey has found.

 

The Migrant Workers Centre’s Lives in Limbo report surveyed 700 migrants and found those on employer-sponsored visas suffered from very high levels of stress.

The release of the survey’s findings comes only days after the Australian government delayed its plan to allow foreign students and skilled workers back into the country due to fears about the Omicron COVID variant.

Australian business groups and farmers have been calling for more skilled overseas workers and working holidaymakers to help fill worker shortages, particularly in the regions. The Migrant Worker Centre study found 91 per cent of those who were underpaid, were on temporary visas with no pathway to residency.

The Melbourne-based centre said despite Australia relying on overseas workers from unskilled backpackers to highly trained doctors and IT workers, the visa system often left workers with a high level of uncertainty, stress and open to exploitation.

It also noted a central issue migrants faced was gaining permanent residency, which often took about five years but could blow out to more than a decade.

Migrants face visa uncertainty

Indian migrant worker Paramjit has been in Australia for 13 years and doesn’t want her surname to be used for fear of recriminations against her in the visa application process.

She’s worked in Victoria and Tasmania as a hairdresser and is now an aged care worker in regional NSW.

Despite paying between $50,000 to $60,000 to the Immigration Department and her work record, she’s been unable to secure permanent residency.

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