Sydney: Australia tolerates a "culture of impunity" in the face of wage payments to foreign temporary workers, who tend not to complain about such abuses for fear of losing their visas, according to a study published on Monday.
"Unscrupulous employers continue to exploit migrant workers because they know they won't complain," said Bassina Farbenblum, an academic at the University of New South Wales.
The study, titled "Silent Wage Theft", reveals that less than 10 per cent of international students and backpackers in Australia can recover unpaid wages, including if they are aware that they have been paid less than stated in the law.
The investigation, supported by interviews with 4,300 foreign temporary workers from 107 countries, confirmed that Australia has a large silent sub-class of poorly paid migrant workers, Farbenblum said.
Immigrant workers form 11 per cent of the Australian labour market and, according to previous studies by both authors, one in three international students and backpackers earn half the legal minimum wage, which is A$18.93 per hour ($13).
The new report indicates that only a few foreign workers try to recover the unpaid money given that for every 100 poorly paid people only three went to the Fair Work Ombudsman.
And out of the total number of those who claimed, slightly more than half were able to recover their money.
The study indicates that 54 per cent are open to claiming unpaid wages but the most common barriers are the lack of knowledge (42 per cent), the effort involved (35 per cent), the fear of immigration consequences (25 per cent) and the fear of losing their job (22 per cent).