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How to avoid the risk of ‘underground work, low wages’ when studying in Australia

Not good English, not understanding culture and law make many international students accept exploitative jobs, wages are lower than the basic level.

Nguyen Thieu Khang (Dave Nguyen) is a student majoring in Information Technology, Charles Darwin University (CDU), Darwin city, in the Northern Territory of Australia. During nine years of living and studying in Australia, Khang experienced various part-time jobs, from teaching piano, delivering pizza, working in a restaurant, studying abroad company to presently working as an information technology officer in Vietnam. a swimming pool installation company.

From his own experience, the male student shared his experience of finding a job and the benefits that international students need to know when working part-time in Australia.

Nguyen Thieu Khang is in his final year studying Information Technology at Charles Darwin University (CDU).  Photo: Character provided

Nguyen Thieu Khang is in his final year studying Information Technology at Charles Darwin University (CDU). Image: Characters provided

Khang went to Australia in 2014 with his family after finishing grade 9 in Vietnam. Before that, he attended international school and intermediate piano at Hanoi Conservatory of Music. Khang’s first part-time job in Australia was teaching piano with a salary of 30-35 AUD an hour. In the first year of university, Khang applied for a job as a pizza delivery worker at a fast food company. Khang works three hours a day and is paid 17 AUD an hour according to the labor contract.

The next year, he applied to work as a kitchen assistant and customer order clerk at an Asian restaurant. Because he wanted to find a job urgently to accumulate some money, Khang accepted to work “underground”, without a labor contract. The experience here scared him when he had to work 10-12 hours a day but only received 12-13 AUD an hour in cash.

Khang said that in Australia, high-paying, contract jobs require a degree or certificate. Working in a restaurant or supermarket is a popular choice among Vietnamese students when they first come here. This job does not require experience, qualifications, is available, can work immediately.

According to Fairwork, an Australian government organization that helps people have a fairer working environment, students with part-time jobs are guaranteed the minimum wage and working conditions as citizens of this country. This page also explains the types of jobs in Australia such as full-time (full-time), part-time (part-time) or casual jobs (hourly work, temporary work).

Full-time jobs typically allow about 38 hours per week, with sick leave and annual leave. In the event of a layoff, the company is required to give notice a period of time, usually four weeks, or an equivalent amount of compensation. With part-time jobs, normally international students are limited to 20 hours a week and also enjoy benefits such as sick leave and annual leave. The minimum wage for these two types of work from July 1, 2021 is AUD 20.33 (USD 15) an hour.

Meanwhile, casual jobs have higher wages but do not have fixed working hours, sick leave or paid leave. Hourly pay for this type of work is 25.4 AUD (nearly 19 USD), 25% higher than base salary.

In 2019, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the University of Technology and Science (UTS), Australia’s two leading universities in Sydney, conducted a survey of about 5,000 international students and students about the part-time salary they receive. . As a result, 77% of international students earn below the minimum wage (AUD 20) and 32% receive a salary of AUD 12 an hour or less. 86% of people know they are being paid less than minimum wage, but 62% of them think it’s their fault.

Khang said that the above situation stems from a number of reasons, including that international students do not understand the law and accept the salary offered by the employer.

“Some of you negotiate with employers to receive cash wages for various reasons, but the purpose is to be allowed to work more than 20 hours a week to increase income,” Khang shared.

His mother and sister cheered on Khang during a piano performance at the Art Gallery in New South Wales in 2015. Thanks to his ability to play, Khang was able to earn money from teaching.  Photo: Character provided

Mother and sister cheered Khang during a piano performance at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2015. Photo: Characters provided

Besides, because your English is not good, you lack confidence and choose jobs in bad places. The final year student said that a high IELTS score does not necessarily reflect the actual level and ability to apply English in life. Many IELTS friends 7.5-8.0 but when they come here, they cannot integrate because they do not understand what the natives say.

Moreover, international students tend to like to exchange and chat with Vietnamese people without expanding their relationships with international students to enhance their English ability and better understand the local culture. Therefore, they have difficulty applying for jobs and can only work “underground”.

Mr. Alex Vu, Director of Admissions and International Cooperation at the University of Sydney in Vietnam, said that many international students work “undercover” in Asian bakeries, restaurants, and restaurants, disadvantaged in terms of salary. . They complained but lacked grounds so they could not claim the money.

Mr. Vu advises international students to choose a contract job and stick with their field of study.

If you work at a place with a labor contract, in addition to benefits such as a guaranteed working environment and health, the employer is also required to pay about 10% of salary to the superannuation fund, according to the superannuation fund. regulations of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This applies to all employees, regardless of Australians or international students.

Superannuation (referred to as super) is the amount of money that the employer must pay for the employee, which is accumulated into a pension. However, temporary visa holders such as international students can completely withdraw at the end of their study program and leave the country.

From personal experience, Khang suggests that those who want to study abroad should focus on practicing Speaking and Listening skills more to avoid culture and language shock.

“You don’t expect to find a job right away; families need to prepare mentally and economically for their children in the first six months of not working. You should practice foreign languages ​​regularly, work hard to talk to friends. abroad to learn how to work professionally, how to use English and understand the culture before looking for a job,” advises Khang.

According to the male student, international students should find work at local restaurants and bars because they will definitely have a labor contract to avoid exploitation. When you have no experience, or your English is not good, you can work at places like McDonald’s, KFC, Dominos… These are places where you don’t need experience, you can work on a chain, and you’ll be trained in skills.

Khang and his friends went to Chinatown in Sydney at the end of 2021. Photo: Provided by the character

Khang and his friends went to Chinatown in Sydney at the end of 2021. Photo: Characters provided

International students can also go to the student center of their school to seek help. Centers have professional experts, have relationships with employers, help you avoid risks when looking for a job.

“You just need to come, say your field of study and desired salary, they will recommend the right industry, with the right visa conditions,” Mr. Alex advises.

Mr. Vu added that Vietnamese student associations in schools or states are useful channels to help international students give necessary advice. In addition, they can also find jobs on reputable websites such as Seek, Adzuna…


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