Large fuel and convenience retailer 7-Eleven said the federal government should remove capped working hours for international students because it leads to the exploitation of vulnerable people in the workforce.
Before a Senate committee on Australia’s Temporary Migration Program, 7-Eleven chief executive Angus McKay said international students face more unfavorable conditions due to black market-style working arrangements fueled by hours of limited work.
Under Australia’s student visa program, a foreigner can only work 20 hours per week while studying in the country.
Mr McKay warned that the number of hours was unrealistic due to the high cost of living in a major Australian city and that it forced students to seek work paid in cash and most likely well below minimum wage.
“Living in our capitals is not a cheap exercise,” McKay told the committee Wednesday.
“Current visa rules do not allow students to legally work enough hours to cover their tuition and living expenses. It creates a pool of vulnerable workers at risk of exploitation because of economic need. “
Mr McKay said international students were considered a cash cow.
“I now fear that the sources of income from the education of international students are now too good to ignore and that this proportion of GDP is so large that lawmakers will overlook the risks associated with this potentially vulnerable group of students.” , did he declare.
Foreign students brought in over $ 12 billion a year to the Australian economy before the pandemic.
Of the approximately 8,800 7-Eleven employees, approximately 2,300 have student visas.
Under the Subclass 500 Student Visa Program, people must prove that they can support themselves before entering Australia by means of bank statements or proof of their parents’ income.
However, Mr McKay said it was a ‘soft’ approach and did not address the problem of students unable to support themselves once in Australia.
“There is no pulse monitoring of the financial situation of students during their studies or random audits to understand their financial health,” the company said in its submission to the committee.
7-Eleven believes changes must occur to eliminate “underground economy” workers who are not paid at allocation rates.
“Our belief is to allow students to legitimately work longer hours than current levels, which will provide them with higher income … and a by-product in eliminating an element of today’s black economy.” Mr. McKay said.
The comments from 7-Eleven and its CEO come after the organization was hit by a salary underpayment scandal, where staff collectively owed $ 173 million in salaries.
It was revealed that between September 2015 and February 2020, owners of 7-Eleven franchises underpaid wages, fees and pension contributions.
Mr McKay at the Senate hearing said the issue had been resolved and all affected workers received wages they were owed.