The Migrant Workers Centre's Lives in Limbo report found 65 per cent of temporary visa holders in Australia have experienced underpayment, while one in four say they have been exploited in the workplace.
The report comes in after the Australian government pushes its plan to allow international students and skilled workers back into the country to control the spread of the Omicron COVID variant.
It has been almost two years now that Australian businesses have been struggling with talent shortages as borders remain sealed amid harsh COVID-19 lockdowns. Eventhough Australia heavily relies on migrants and foreign workers, the visa system and work policies are not so favourable for this in-demand talent.
The Migrant Worker Centre study revealed that 91 per cent of those who were underpaid, were on temporary visas with no pathway to residency.
Migrant workers demand a visa overhaul
Matt Kunkel, Migrant Workers Centre Chief Executive feels that the government constantly changes visa rules creating a temporary class of workers, who are essential to the Australian economy but have limited protections or certainty.
"Workers on temporary visas experience workplace exploitation because the system creates barriers to reporting industrial wrongdoing," added Matt.
To protect their rights at work and feel more secure, migrant workers demand:
- the employer sponsorship visa system scrapped and replaced with a state and territory-sponsorship system for permanent residency;
- maximum visa processing times;
- and, protections for migrant worker whistleblowers.
As the study reiterated, migrants on temporary visas also faced barriers in the job market, with 37 per cent saying they had been denied a job because they did not have permanent visas.
With businesses reluctant to offer migrant workers a professional job because the workers' continued service is contingent on their visa extension, government intervention is needed to protect the rights of foreign workers and make them feel more secure in Australia.