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Wage theft: the shadow market

Migrants Wage theft CALD Labour market Wages New South Wales
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Wage theft: the shadow market 15.78 MB

The exploitation of temporary migrant workers in Australia is a common and known problem that appears to be endemic throughout Australian workplaces.

The practice of advertising employment positions in foreign languages, with rates of pay that are below the minimum wage, was first exposed by Unions NSW in our 2017 and 2018 wage theft reports. This is the third year since 2017 that Unions NSW has conducted an audit of jobs advertised in foreign languages that target temporary migrants. This year, over 4,000 ads were reviewed, making it the first large scale audit of job advertisements in foreign languages ever conducted in Australia. Over 1,000 of the ads were for positions in the horticultural industry, and will be discussed in a separate report.

Key findings:

  • 72% of the 3,000 ads for jobs in NSW audited, specified a rate of pay for the role advertised.
  • 88% of ads that provided a rate of pay were below the minimum wage stipulated by the relevant Modern Award.
  • At 97.3%, the highest percentage of jobs advertised below the minimum wage were in the construction industry, followed by cleaning at 91.8%, hair and beauty at 87.9%, fast food at 87.5%, retail at 87.1%, hospitality at 87%, clerical at 84.3% and transport at 66.7%.
  • 90.7% of job ads in Vietnamese were below the minimum wage, as were 88.3% of Korean ads, 87.9% of Chinese, 86.3% of Nepalese, 83.9% of Portuguese and 76.4% of Spanish ads.
  • The COVID-19 crisis has intensified employer exploitative practices, with temporary migrants reporting an increase in sham contracting and offers of free trials lasting several hours.
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