The majority of international graduates on temporary visas find themselves in low-skilled jobs, with nearly 50% earning less than $53,300 per year.
International students on temporary visas in Australia are grappling with employment challenges and financial hardships, according to a new report from the Grattan Institute. The study reveals that those who manage to secure employment often earn considerably less than their domestic counterparts, with wages aligning more closely with those of backpacker workers.
The majority of international graduates on temporary visas find themselves in low-skilled jobs, with nearly 50% earning less than $53,300 per year. Shockingly, almost three-quarters of Temporary Graduate visa holders earned less than the average Australian worker in 2021.
On average, international students on temporary visas earn around $53,300 per year, just slightly more than working holiday-makers at $50,700. This is significantly lower than the average earnings of all 20 to 29 year olds with at least a bachelor’s degree, which stands at $64,400.
Yes, it gets even worse
The disparities become even more pronounced in specific fields. For instance, international graduates with postgraduate coursework degrees in business management earn approximately $58,000 less annually than their domestic counterparts. Similarly, those with computing and engineering postgraduate coursework degrees face a gap of about $40,000.
The report sheds light on the challenges faced by international graduates in securing full-time employment, with only half succeeding upon graduation. Employers’ reluctance to hire them is attributed to uncertainty surrounding their visa status, as revealed in a survey conducted for the report.
The Grattan Institute suggests that the length of post-graduation work rights might be contributing to false hopes of attaining permanent residency among international students. While they stay in Australia on temporary visas after graduating, they encounter difficulties pursuing their chosen careers.
As of July 2023, there are approximately 654,870 international students in Australia, compared to 634,000 before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report’s modeling predicts that government changes allowing graduates to stay and work longer could double the number of Temporary Graduate visa holders to about 370,000 by 2030.
The report’s lead author, Brendan Coates, emphasises the need for changes to prevent graduates from being stuck in “visa limbo” and advocates for a new ‘Exceptionally Talented Graduate’ visa offering permanent residency for high-value graduates. The report also recommends a higher English language requirement for Temporary Graduate visa holders and reducing post-study work visa durations. Moreover, it suggests that visa extensions should only be offered to graduates earning at least $70,000 annually.
International student Yeganeh Soltanpour points out that both international and domestic students are “victims” of heightened competition in the workforce. The increasing number of graduates with similar degrees makes it challenging for a degree alone to secure a job. Soltanpour also notes that international students face an additional barrier to employment due to the lack of local community networks or connections.
Will This Trend Continue?
Amidst the struggles faced by international graduates in Australia, a crucial question emerges: Is this challenging trend here to stay?
Despite recent policy changes allowing extended post-graduation work rights, concerns remain. The risk of graduates being trapped in “visa limbo” and the uncertainty around long-term prospects persist. With the number of international students surpassing pre-pandemic levels, the job market pressure continues to mount.
The Grattan Institute’s predictions of a potential doubling of Temporary Graduate visa holders by 2030 add further uncertainty. Without decisive policy shifts, including stricter language tests and reduced visa durations, the future for international graduates remains uncertain.
The burning question: Will financial hardship and career struggles persist, or can we anticipate a positive shift for the international student community in Australia? Only time will tell.