Wages and working conditions could take a hit if ‘gig economy’ jobs such as takeaway delivery continue to expand, researchers of a new study have warned.
In 2017 the researchers spoke to 58 Uber Eats and Deliveroo workers in Melbourne and Perth… 47 of the 58 riders interviewed said they were in Australia on student or working visas…
Study co-author Tom Barratt from Perth’s Edith Cowan University said the major issue was workers were engaged as independent contractors and could be paid less than minimum wage without breaking employment laws… “if more and more jobs enter the gigosphere, this can put downward pressure on the wages and conditions of workers in non-gig jobs,” he said…
The Department of Home Affairs’ latest temporary visa statistics showed that the total number of temporary visas on issue ballooned past 2.3 million in the March quarter, up 92,400 over the year.
International students are at the pointy end of the systemic exploitation of migrant workers and wage theft across the Australian economy, as noted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The relatively recent availability of a large and vulnerable pool of temporary migrant workers has undoubtedly contributed to current record low levels of wages growth and a growing reluctance by employers to train local workers, While there are approximately 1.5 million temporary entrants with work rights, the overseas worker team at the Fair Work Ombudsman consists of only 17 full time inspectors to investigate cases of exploitation – over 80,000 visa workers per inspector. Inadequate enforcement and penalties act as an incentive for employers to exploit temporary workers when the benefit from doing so outweighs the cost of the penalty. or where the probability of being caught is sufficiently low….
There have been a range of abuses uncovered which have clearly shown that the entire system is broken. From 7-11 and Domino’s to agriculture, construction, food processing to Coles, Dominos and Caltex, it is clear that the abuses occur in a number of visa classes whether they be students, working holiday makers or visa workers in skilled occupations.
Last year’s book, The Wages Crisis in Australia, raised similar concerns about the surge in migrant workers and their deleterious impact on wages:
Official stock data indicate that the visa programmes for international students, temporary skilled workers and working holiday makers have tripled in numbers since the late 1990s…
Decisions by the federal Coalition government under John Howard to introduce easier pathways to permanent residency for temporary visa holders, especially international students and temporary skilled workers, gave a major impetus to TMW [temporary migrant worker] visa programmes.
Most international students and temporary skilled workers, together with many working holiday makers, see themselves as involved in a project of ‘staggered’ or ‘multi-step’ migration, whereby they hope to leap from their present status into a more long-term visa status, ideally permanent residency.
Though standard accounts describe Australian immigration as oriented to skilled labour, this characterisation stands at odds with the abundant evidence on expanding temporary migration and the character of TMW jobs… the fact that their work is primarily in lower-skilled jobs suggests that it is more accurate, as several scholars point out, to speak of a shift in Australia towards a de facto low-skilled migration programme. Research shows that in industries where employers have turned to temporary migrants en masse, it erodes wages and conditions in these industries over time, making them less attractive to locals.
As long as international students numbers continue to balloon, so too will exploitation and the erosion of wages.