After more than a year of granting unlimited work hours for international students, the Australian government is set to reinstate the work hour cap on 30 June 2023.
The government’s decision to remove the cap in January of 2022 was a temporary measure to address the country’s labour shortage, in turn driving significant growth in the number of international students in Australia. But while the cap removal was able to attract more students to the country, different education providers have mixed points of view on how beneficial this move truly was for the overall education industry.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney argues that lifting the work hour cap helped international students support themselves while also supporting the country’s economy.
“The amendment of international student work hour allowance during the Covid-19 pandemic not only provided much needed financial support to international students but also kept several domestic businesses afloat,” the institution wrote in a statement.
Hence, alongside the University of Adelaide, UNSW Sydney is urging the government to maintain unrestricted work hours for the sake of both the students and domestic businesses.
On the other hand, however, it seems that more Australian education providers have reasons to believe that reinstating the cap is the right decision to make. Different institutions were able to point out different consequences that resulted from permitting unlimited work hours:
There are several serious hazards that come with letting international students work unlimited hours. But what will reinstating the work hour cap mean for international students who genuinely want to gain relevant work experience and expand their network?
While many universities and education bodies seem to be in favour of the cap’s reinstatement, they also believe that exemptions should be made for study-related work experiences. Griffith University, for instance, recommends that non-compulsory work-integrated learning shouldn’t count towards the total number of permitted work hours, as this would be an “unnecessary barrier for international students in obtaining relevant work experience and connecting with potential employers”. The University of Melbourne also said that exemptions should be granted for students with internship subjects as electives.
The Australian government’s decision on whether to implement unlimited work hours or not will require careful consideration to balance the needs of international students while addressing the labour shortage in the country. Ensuring that international students’ health and wellbeing must be a priority in Australia to allow them the best possible environment to succeed and fill the skills gap while contributing to a diverse and dynamic labour workforce.