Sydney, Feb 6 : Indian and other overseas students in Australia don't have enough money to eat, are paid well below the minimum wage and are among those most susceptible to exploitation, according to a new research.
The study suggests that more than one-third of international students face a financial struggle and about 60 per cent are paid less than the legal minimum wage.
The study comes in the wake of education overtaking tourism as Australia's biggest services export, increasing by a huge 21 per cent in 2007 to 12.5 billion dollars.
The authors of the joint Monash University and University of Melbourne studies blasted universities for treating foreign students like "cash cows", and slammed the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee (now known as Universities Australia) for failing to include overseas students in a recent student welfare study.
"Many internationals are disadvantaged by their relative deficit of language and cultural skills, they are crowded into a narrower range of jobs than is available to their domestic peers, and they commonly offset these disadvantages by working for less than the legal (minimum)," News.com.au quoted the authors, as stating.
The two papers, one on international students in the workforce and the other on the financial difficulties faced by overseas students, were based on interviews with 200 students at nine universities across Australia.
The findings showed that almost 60 per cent of students earned below the minimum wage and 37per cent had gone through financial suffering, including not having enough money to travel to university or even eat.
"I had a very hard time finding a job. (For the) first two months I was unemployed. My rent is very high - it's 0 a week - and other than that you have travelling, eating, everything," an Indian student told the researchers.
"So I starved," the student added.
The researchers found that 70 per cent of international students worked at some stage during their studies in Australia and a number admitted to working more than the maximum 20 hours allowed by their study visas.
The research, conducted by Simon Marginson, Chris Nyland, Erlenawati Sawir, Gaby Ramia and Helen Forbes-Mewett, also found that foreign students were more likely to be exploited because of their lack of English skills and ignorance of workplace rights.
Stressing on the appalling findings, the researchers called for urgent action by governments and universities.
They urged better education for international students about their workplace rights and better investigations by workplace authorities to expose the injustices experienced by working overseas students.