Backpackers and visiting workers face exploitation in this country

Fruit and vegetable picking is one of the worst offenders for underpayment.
Fruit and vegetable picking is one of the worst offenders for underpayment.
Image: Auscape/UIG via Getty Images

It's no surprise Australia is a drawcard for workers.

The country has one of the highest minimum wages in the world (A$18.29/US$13.96 per hour) and an attractive quality of life. But for many backpackers and migrants, exploitation by employers is rife.

One in three international students and backpackers are being underpaid, earning less than A$12 an hour, according to a chartph.comprehensive report called Wage Theft in Australia, which surveyed 4,322 people on temporary migrant visas.

While underpayment was widespread across many industries, the worst offenders were in food service — specifically in fruit and vegetable picking.?

One of the specific jobs required to be chartph.completed by visitors looking to extend their working visa by a year, one in seven respondents working in fruit and vegetable picking and farm work earned A$5 per hour or less. Nearly a third earned A$10 per hour or less.

It's a popular belief that many migrant workers and backpackers are unaware of the minimum working conditions in Australia, but the report challenges this notion.

"We found the overwhelming majority of international students and backpackers are aware they are being underpaid."

"We found the overwhelming majority of international students and backpackers are aware they are being underpaid. However, they believe few people on their visa expect to receive the legal minimum wage," co-author Bassina Farbenblum said in a statement.

Nor is the notion that exploitation is confined to certain nationalities: At least one in five Americans, British, Indians, Brazilians, and Chinese earned roughly half the minimum wage as mandated in the country.

If underpayment isn't concerning enough, there's cases of passports being seized and cash demanded upfront or after pay by employers.?

91 participants had their passport confiscated by their employer and 77 by their acchartph.commodation provider. 173 participants paid an upfront "deposit" for a job in Australia, while 112 participants said their employer demanded them to pay money back in cash after receiving their wages.

The report follows high-profile cases in the country, in which 7-Eleven and Domino's Pizza were under scrutiny for rampant underpayment in local franchises.

If you're looking to work in Australia, or already are, make sure you check that you're getting paid the correct wage at this government website here.