Indians on 457 Visas exploited, says report

13 September 2013

By Alexandra Hansen

Australian employers and managers, often of Indian ethnicity, are exploiting their Indian workers on 457 visas, a study by Macquarie University researchers has found.

The three year study, which included interviews with 40 individuals, examined Indian 457 visa holders in blue-collar occupations, hospitality, and the IT sector. 

Indians working under the 457 visa scheme, which is designed to fill labour shortages in niche areas of the economy, actually had difficulty finding work, and were often not treated well when they got it.

Many such workers paid thousands of dollars to secure employment in Australia before arriving, only to be told shortly after their arrival that they were no longer needed. 

Others reported long hours – up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week - without paid overtime, and being forced to work in unsafe conditions and perform tasks for which they had not been trained. Sick days were deducted from their annual leave entitements, even when they produced medical certificates.

The report states that in some cases when the employees complained to their supervisors about their treatment, and asked why it wasn’t equivalent to that of their local colleagues, “their employer told them that overseas workers do not have the same rules of pay and employment as local workers.”

The study found that the worst forms of exploitation occurred in co-ethnic work environments, when the employer or manager was also of Indian origin.

The worst cases involved Indian-owned enterprises such as restaurants.

The study found that employers justified their treatment of their 457 visa workers on the basis that “this is what these workers are used to in their own country”.         

457 visa holders were often unable to seek help and advice due to poor English skills, long work hours that left no time for leisure or chores, and in some cases had signed illegal contracts which stated that they were forbidden from seeking employment elsewhere.

Many also reported feeling trapped by family and kinship links to their employers.

Some reported their employers had threatened to kill them, or harm their families in India if they didn’t comply with the unreasonable demands placed upon them.

The report states that even though temporary skilled migration (457 visa class) to Australia is steadily increasing, “the level of support services available for this group appear severely lacking compared to permanent migrants and local workers.”

“It is clear that temporary migrant workers need to be better informed of their visa status, labour entitlements and the range of support services available to them while living in Australia,” the report states, “Given that temporary skilled migrants have become a permanent feature in the Australian migration landscape, more needs to be done to improve their working and living conditions.”