Home | International Education | Overseas graduates at risk of exploitation in Australia’s job market
International students work hours will be capped at 48 hours a fortnight from July 1st. Picture: Emma Brasier/News Corp Australia.

Overseas graduates at risk of exploitation in Australia’s job market

Universities will have to work with the government to "better educate" companies and the public about international students' visas if they want them to integrate into the job market, an education expert has said.

The Albanese Government announced it would extend post-study work rights for international students last week, allowing them to live in Australia for an extra two years after graduation.

International students in industries facing severe skills shortages, such as teaching, engineering and health, will be able to apply for a visa extension as of July 1st.

Deakin University education lecturer Professor Ly Tran said the announcement would only benefit overseas students if they can secure a job after graduating.

"The policy is good in the centre," Professor Tran told Campus Review.

"But there are a few systemic barriers for international students that persist when finding a job, and we need to minimise the zones between policy and the reality of the labour market."

Under the new policy, international students completing bachelor's degrees will see their post-study work visa increased from two to four years, and master's graduates will have their visa lengthened from three to five years.

Overseas PhD students, independent of their field of study, will see their visa extended from four to six years after degree completion.

Professor Tran's current research project analyses international students' experiences entering the job market after graduation.

She said many Australian employers are unclear about how temporary graduate visas work, leading them to prefer someone with permanent residency or citizenship.

"Universities should be an active player in working, in partnership with the government at different levels, to educate local communities, employers and businesses to understand more about the contribution of international students," she said.

In 2022, full-time employment rates of international graduates reached 57.7 per cent, a figure still below pre-pandemic numbers.

Professor Tran said a major issue affecting international graduates is a lack of local work experience.

"Many universities have been working hard on employability development for international students, but not all universities are doing that," she said.

"Now is the favourable time to emphasise more on that front and share good practices across the sector."

She said universities should educate international students more about the Australian job market to curb the risk of being exploited.

"It is important for them to understand they can be at risk of underpayment."

In 2019, the International Students and Wage Theft in Australia report by the Migrant Justice Institute found that 77 per cent of international students were paid below minimum wage.

Over 30 per cent of overseas students reported earning $12 an hour or less.

The survey showed that 62 per cent believed they were at fault or had broken the law by accepting to work below minimum wages and did not seek help as they feared to lose their visa.

"Overseas students need to learn how the job market works beforehand, such as how to find a job and where to turn if they have an issue," Professor Tran said.

International students could help to ease labour shortages according to Professor Tran, but the government will need to address holes in the integrity of the visa and migration system.

"We need to avoid repeating the situation in 2005 and 2010 when a flow of international students was applying for courses in areas of skill shortages with no interest in building a career," she said.

"The policy should not only address the skill shortage of the host country but also give international students equal opportunities for developing human capacity and employability."

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