Working conditions of temporary migrant workers in Australia by zSC0UA


									Working conditions of
temporary migrant
workers in Australia:
who’s vulnerable?
Iain Campbell
Temporary Migrant Work and
Social Justice Workshop,
Melbourne, 7 April 2010
Defining temporary migrant labour

   Temporary migrant labour = paid work
    undertaken by persons who are in a host country
    under an arrangement that allows temporary but
    not permanent residence.

   Is it really temporary?
   Paid work by persons with limited social, political
    and industrial rights? How limited?
Types of temporary migrant labour in Australia
   The definition could include some illegal or
    unauthorised work, eg by those on tourist
    visas. But this is a relatively minor problem.
    (Estimate of persons unlawfully in Australia,
    mainly ‘overstayers’, = 47,800.)

   Official categories:
    1) Working holiday makers
    2) Overseas students
    3) ‘Temporary business entrants’, esp. Sub-
       class 457 Business (Long Stay) visa
Size of the temporary migrant workforce (stock
figures, June 2009)

1) Working holiday makers… steady growth to
   102,319 persons.
2) Overseas students… spectacular growth in
   last few years to 386,523 persons.
3) 457 visa workers… small increase from 1996
   to 2003-2004, but then a strong increase…
   primary and secondary visa grants... 142,669
Continued growth even during the global economic
The impact of temporary migrant labour

In short, a very large number = 655,000 (excl. New
  Zealanders) in a workforce of 10.7 million.

This increase has significant implications...
  eg. the increase is driving population growth and
  clogging up the permanent migration program...
Who is vulnerable to poor working conditions?

   Accounts of poor working conditions
    experienced by some temporary migrant
    workers, eg low hourly rates, lack of payment for
    all working hours, heavy deductions from wages
    (recruitment costs, accommodation, etc),
    bullying and poor treatment at work, unsafe
    workplaces, heightened insecurity, etc.
     Who’s vulnerable?
     What’s the extent of the problem?
     What are the causes of the problem?
   We have some partial indications, but no firm
    answers... Some comments to guide research...
Defining vulnerable workers (UK research)

   A vulnerable worker is “someone working in an
    environment where the risk of being denied
    employment rights is high and who does not
    have the capacity or means to protect
    themselves from that abuse”.
   Stress on imbalance of power in the employment
   Immigrant workers are sometimes seen as
    especially vulnerable – particularly dependent
    on individual employers.
Vulnerability of temporary migrant workers, I

   Personal characteristics of workers, eg lack of
    English, lack of knowledge of employment rights,
    fear of dismissal if caught complaining...
   But also structural weakness and heightened
    dependence on individual employers as a result
    of migration regulation – lack of access to
    welfare rights to support change of job, 457
    workers have restricted rights to change jobs, all
    workers seeking permanent residency need
    employer support, etc.
Vulnerability of temporary migrant workers, II

   As the UK research stresses, it is also crucial to
    look at the demand side – employers and
   Characteristics of employers...
   Weaknesses of labour regulation in Australia
    leaves holes in protection – patchwork system
    (NES + other legislative provisions, modern
    awards, collective agreements) with gaps at the
    bottom + exemptions for special categories of
    workers, limited resources for enforcement, and
    blurred lines of coverage. This defines rich
    opportunities for employers to use temporary
    migrant workers in ways that ‘local’ workers
    cannot be used.
Vulnerability of temporary migrant workers, III

   It is important to look at the intersection of
    migration regulation and other forms of
    regulation, especially labour regulation.
A broader problem of social justice?

   Possibility of differences in treatment between
    temporary migrant workers and local workers...

   ‘Cheap labour’... Dangers of a displacement of
    local workers... Dangers of a degradation of
    distinct labour markets...
   This suggests that vulnerability can also extend
    to local workers.

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