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Half of all migrant workers in Australia feel unsafe at work: Survey

Canberra, March 20 (IANS) Half of all migrant workers in Australia feel unsafe at work, a new survey revealed on Monday.

Published by the Migrant Workers Centre, the survey asked more than 1,000 migrant workers in Australia about their experience in the labour and immigration system, reports Xinhua news agency.

It found that half of participants have experienced discrimination, bullying and verbal abuse in Australian workplaces while 58 per cent have been victims of wage theft.

Of those who experienced wage theft, only one quarter were able to recoup what they were owed.

Almost 60 per cent of respondents in precarious employment said they often or always feel unsafe at work.

Matt Kunkel, chief executive of the centre, said Australia’s visa system has created a “dual market” whereby migrants must find permanent work in order to be eligible for residency but are often overlooked for positions when they are not residents.

Under Australian law, residency is not required to be employed but the report found businesses were less likely to hire applicants in the country on temporary visas.

“Urgent action is required to reform our system. Improving job safety and security for migrant workers will create a fairer job market for everyone,” Kunkel told the Guardian Australia.

“Not only does the system push people into jobs that they’re overqualified for but into jobs that are unsafe.”

One participant in the survey was Antonio Michell, 36, who was a specialist physiotherapist in Chile before moving to Australia in 2017 where he could not find work in his field.

Instead, Michell resorted to one-off and cash-in-hand jobs in various labour-intensive industries where he often felt unsafe.

“Sometimes I was doing things that were not supposed to be done by me,” he said.

“Sometimes in construction they were asking me to do demolition jobs — which is a specialised job and should be paid accordingly. And they were asking me to do it as a labourer. Someone was getting paid that money, but it wasn’t me.”

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