Why this politician thinks international students in Australia shouldn't work
Hanson believes by allowing international students to work, they are taking jobs away from unemployed locals. Source: Quan Le on Unsplash

To right-wing and nationalist Senator Pauline Hanson, international students shouldn’t be allowed to work while studying in Australia as they are taking jobs away from unemployed locals.

It is “wrong” to allow these student 20 work hours per week as they should be financially “self-supporting” when they enter Australian universities, Hanson told Sky News.

“Come out here, do your studies. But work visas- no. They should be able to support themselves.”

Foreigners studying for an undergraduate degree in Australian universities are eligible to work up to 40 hours a fortnight (around 20 hours a week) once their studies commence. Master’s and PhD students can work an unlimited number of hours alongside their studies.

They must be paid at minimum wage (AU$18.29 an hour/ US$14.08) and cannot be forced to work more than 20 hours a week by their employers.

‘Matter of urgency’

This isn’t the first time the politician from the One Nation party has made such calls. Last October, the outspoken Hanson told the Senate that it is a “matter of urgency” to understand how many jobs international students are taking:

“International students on temporary visas take lower-paid jobs that could be done by unemployed young Australians,” she said then.

“They [international students] are bad for unemployed young people and others who find their wages and conditions depressed by hundreds of thousands of international students with automatic rights to work in Australia.”

A report by Hobsons Solutions found only 34 percent of workplaces hire international graduates. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show more than one in three foreign students reported having jobs in the 2011 Census, with many working in the hospitality (including cleaning and food preparation) and retail sectors.

‘It is quite often that I might get into a taxi… and find they did their university degrees here and have gone on to actually become taxi drivers,” Hanson said. Source: Shutterstock


Australian National University migration researcher Henry Sherrell said that it is “likely” that some international students are “substituting” for young Australians in these jobs but it was a complicated field of study and it’s too soon to call for reform.

“The hard thing about this stuff, is if you take backpackers and international students, they’re often working for non-wage incentives like residency, while Australians are much more driven, especially at a young age, by wage considerations,” he said.

Speaking to SBSpresident of the Council of International Students Australia, Bijay Sapkota reminded Hanson of the AU$27 billion international education industry supported by these very students, as well as other secondary industries such as tourism and hospitality.

It’s lacking in “common sense” to describe these students as a burden, according to Sapkota, who also advocated for them to be allowed longer working hours

“For students to be job ready, they need work experience. But because students have a restriction of 20-hours a week work, not many employers are willing to hire them. That’s why you see them driving taxis despite having a university degree.

“Our suggestion is, allow students to work more if they have a job in a relevant field and lower their study burden to let them finish their remaining subjects in the subsequent semesters.”

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