- By Anna Patty
The new report presents the most comprehensive Australian research conducted into the systemic underpayment of international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants around the country. It paints a bleak picture of the conditions experienced by a high proportion of the more than 900,000 temporary migrant workers who represent more than 10 per cent of the Australian labour market.
Almost one in seven working in fruit and vegetable picking and farm work – which the study found to be the worst paid – earned $5 per hour or less, and almost a third (31 per cent) earned $10 per hour or less.
Belgian Laurent Van Eesbeeck, 25, told Fairfax Media he was paid as little as $5 per hour to pick cherry tomatoes in Bundaberg, Queensland in June this year and $60 for eight hours of work picking strawberries in Caboolture, north of Brisbane in August.
He made $100 a day after tax for picking mandarins near Childers in Queensland, but said he had to live in a run-down caravan in a caravan park as a condition of the job.
He is currently based in Melbourne and plans to return to Belgium where he completed a degree in mathematical engineering after one year in Australia. He no longer wants to clock up the 88 days of farm work required to stay longer.
"I've had a couple of disappointments with Australian farms," Mr Van Eesbeeck said.
"For me it's exploitation …. I don't want to be part of it.
"When you answer an ad online you are never sure whether it is going to be a good or bad job. You only know when you arrive there if the pay is decent."
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