Indian Migrant Workers Exploited by Employers in Australia

October 13, 2013

 Indian Migrant Workers Exploited by Employers in Australia

Revealing the dark side of worker exploitation by "co-ethnics," a recent study by the Macquarie University reveals that Indian workers are actually exploited and harassed by Indian employers and managers in Australia. According to the findings of the study titled, "Precarious experiences of Indians in Australia on 457 temporary work visas," Indian employees under the temporary visa category complained that their Indian employers told them that they did not have the same rights as local employees. The study recommends the need to better inform temporary migrant workers about their rights, visa status, labour entitlements and the wide range of support services available to them in Australia.

The three-year qualitative study was undertaken among temporary Indian workers in Australia under the 457 visa class by researchers Dr Selvaraj Velayutham & Amanda Wise of the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion at the Macquarie University.

Cultural attitudes get trans-nationalised

The study finds that cultural attitudes, caste and class relations get trans-nationalised in the global trade of labour. Underpinning a racist element, Indian-origin employers justify the exploitation of fellow Indian-blue collar workers as treating them the same way "these workers are used to, in their own country [India]."

Vulnerability of blue collar workers is more due to the contractual and practical difficulties that these workers face to find alternative employment.

Lack of knowledge increases susceptibility

Much of their susceptibility also grows due to the lack of knowledge about their rights, limited support network and the fear of losing their visa status. Family, money and kinship pressure is found to be another reason why Indian blue collar workers continue to helplessly suffer. 

Some of the problems these workers face include, long hours of work without leisure. Work time can often go up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, without paid overtime, the report finds. Workers are also sometimes forced to work in unsafe conditions and required to perform tasks for which they are not trained. Workers also told researchers; about administrative complains such as sick leave being deducted from annual leave despite medical certificates among others issues. 

The study finds that Indian blue collar workers were misled by their Indian employers and manager into believing that they do not have the rights and rules of pay and employment as local workers.

The study reveals that poor knowledge of English often stops these workers from accessing help from support networks. The most vulnerable are Indian workers employed in non-unionised, sub-contracting or small Indian businesses, says the report. The study finds that highly vulnerable group are individuals working in small Indian establishments like restaurants.

Need to increase proactive support networks

The study recommends that even though, temporary skilled migration under the 457 visa class have substantially increased in the recent years, support services are not in place to ensure that the workers under the category are not exploited and harassed.

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