By Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Sydney Australia
International students are playing a significant role in the Australian economy. According to sources, there are over one-million students study in Australian Universities and Colleges. These students have a legal visa status to stay in Australia and they pay high tax to the Government from their part-time (20 hours per week) jobs. These international students pay the same rate of tax on their earnings as paid by the permanent citizens.
According to sources, international students contribute around $15 billion per year to the Australian economy. Beside boost in the economy, international students add a rich, vibrant layer to Australian diversity. They provide a considerable labour force for local trade & business. Some international students come to Australia intending to settle permanently while others return to their homeland after achieving their academic goals. When these students go back to their countries, they become ambassadors for Australia. Their stories become the dream for many overseas youngsters and professionals who want to experience Australian life.
More than 60 percent of international students are enrolled in the Australian vocational education colleges every year. Most of these colleges are privately run by the business community as a profitable business. These international students, mostly from Asia, Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe, come to Australia to improve their English language skills, to get an occupational or professional qualification, and to work part-time – to gain Australian work experience and help meet their educational and living expenditure. At the same time, they are rich manpower, mostly for the labour jobs, for the Australian business industry. Attending college, studying and doing a part-time job is not easy, yet they meet these challenges: they are strong and committed to working hard for a better life.
No doubt the current economic, business and job positions are in the worst situation for everyone due to COVID-19 conditions. Australian Government is trying her best to offer financial assistance to the permanent residents and citizens. All Australians should be thankful for the present the government’s efforts to help financially to the people. However, ignoring and not supporting international students will be an unjustifiable act with international students. The Prime Minister Hon Scot Morrison’s statement brash denial to provide financial assistance to the international students and ask them to return to their home country if they are in financial crises has upset thousands of students across Australia. Australian Government should not treat them as visitors. They came to Australia to complete their desired education, going back to home in the middle of their education means leaving their incomplete studies with no future, no complete qualification and no money in the pocket. Remember, most of these students belong to poor countries, their parents provide them money by hard means to manage to study in Australia. Therefore, it would be unfair to advise international students to go back to their countries especially their own countries are also going through the worst crises due to Coronavirus situation across the globe. Even if they want to return to their countries, they cannot travel now due to the stoppage of air travel.
This is the time the Australian Government show sympathy and kindness with the international students. They are Australian’s committed and hardworking resource and they will continue to help the Australian economy when the situation of COVID-19 over.
Many community-based non-profit and charity organizations are helping international students as per their resources and efforts. The Australian Government should also contribute and announce a relief package. There could be many things the Australian Government can do immediately, for example:
- Relaxation in the tax on their earnings
- Order Universities and colleges to at least cut down their fee half for coming semesters until Australia comes out of the Coronavirus situation
- Order Real Estate Services to waive or defer rent of students’ renting housing for up to at least the next 6 months
- Compensate employers to retain part-time employment of the international students and order those employers to pay them regularly for the next 6 months
It is hoped that the Prime Minister will consider the above submissions and act on them timely. (The writer is a Sydney-based journalist, writer, multicultural events organizer, a community leader, and a Convener Support Team Coronavirus; his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Concluded on 7th of April, 2020