TravelGuides – Australia has become a ‘guest worker state’ exploiting temporary visa holders, report reveals | Migration

TravelGuides – Australia has become a ‘guest worker state’ exploiting temporary visa holders, report reveals | Migration

The growth of temporary migration visas since the 1990s has turned Australia into a “guest worker state” creating an underclass of young, vulnerable and often exploited employees, a new report suggests.

The Migrant Workers Centre’s Lives in Limbo report found 65% of temporary visa holders had experienced wage theft.

Based on interviews with 700 temporary visa holders in Australia, the report – released this week – found a clear link between workplace exploitation and temporary visa status, with 91% of workers who experienced wage theft arriving on a visa with no pathway to permanent residency.


On top of wage theft, one in every four migrant workers had been pressured to work without enough breaks, perform overtime work, and work on public holidays.

The report found it was becoming increasingly difficult to settle in Australia, with only 13.5% of respondents managing to secure permanent residency after their arrival, a process that takes 5.1 years on average.

Indian migrant worker Paramjit, who did not want her last name used, has been in Australia for 13 years and says she has spent between $50,00 and $60,000 on fees related to her visa.

“We are not treated properly compared to other countries,” Paramjit said.


“We were never given any benefits and we pay tax. It’s discrimination. We don’t get anything back. I told my brother not to come to Australia.”

Paramjit came to Australia on a student visa, training as a hairdresser in Victoria and working for free for six months, before moving to Tasmania.

She is now working in aged care in regional NSW. After being on five different visas she is waiting to hear if her sixth will be approved – an 887 visa, which skilled workers in regional areas can get as part of a pathway to permanent residency. She applied 20 months ago.

Her son, who was born in 2012, will be an Australian citizen in a month. “They don’t think about migrants, we are just here to give money.”


The report revealed many migrants were encouraged to sign up for educational courses, with some choosing to enrol in classes because they have run out of options.

“Migration agents and the government give migrant workers the impression that acquiring Australian education will give them a better chance to progress toward permanent residency,” it states.

“In reality, the so-called ‘PR occupations’ do not guarantee permanent residency.”

Overwhelmingly, migrant workers say they are out of pocket thousands of dollars due to visa fees, have to navigate complex and fast-changing requirements and are forced to do medical tests, including pregnancy checks, when they apply for permanent residency.

Columbian migrant Vanessa, 25, is on her third visa and says she had to take a medical test each time she applied for a new visa.

“They ask if you are pregnant, and you do a wee test,” she said. “To check if you’re pregnant or if you have tuberculosis. They take an X-ray. You have to pay $500 for it.”

Vanessa came to Melbourne five years ago with her boyfriend and the pair have found jobs as chefs and in early childcare.

They’ve spent more than $20,000 in visa fees and, to stay in the country, they need to move to regional South Australia for two years, before they can apply for permanent residency.

“We are part of Melbourne, even if the government doesn’t see us like that,” Vanessa said. “It has been very stressful because we have tried to do everything right with this process.”

The chief executive of the Migrant Workers Centre, Matt Kunkel, says the system needs more permanent visas, maximum processing times, and protections for whistleblowers.

“The government expects migrants – often highly educated and highly dedicated to creating a life in Australia – to give up the prime working years of their life to this country, all the while shifting the goalposts to keep permanent residency just out of reach,” he said.

Quick Guide

How to get the latest news from Guardian Australia


Photograph: Tim Robberts/Stone RF

Thank you for your feedback.

“Workers on temporary visas experience workplace exploitation because the system creates barriers to reporting industrial wrongdoing.”

Kunkel said these workers were giving years of their lives to help the Australian economy, building friendships and families in their communities and for that, they should be rewarded.

“We need an overhaul of the visa system so workers’ lives don’t rest solely in the hands of a single employer, and all long-term migrants have an opportunity for permanent residency.”

TravelGuides – Australia has become a ‘guest worker state’ exploiting temporary visa holders, report reveals | Migration

Travel Guides

Travel Guides Buzz has breaking travel news, travel hotels, America travel guides, travel photos, latest travel news, Asia travel guides, Europe travel guides, Australia travel guides and all the trending buzz you’ll want to share with your friends. Copyright Travel Guides Buzz.

Related Articles

Back to top button