We have more than 570,000 international students in Australia and it is believed that they contribute about $35 billion dollars to the Australian economy. Not all of them are from rich families who can afford to pay more than what it is worth to get a so called world-class Australian education. Many must work part-time to cover their living expenses. Most of them work in hospitality industry as it offers them the flexibility to work in the evenings and the weekends around their study commitments.
Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, most of those international students have lost their jobs. Now, they have no income to buy food and pay their rent. Their families may not be in a position to support them financially in the current scenario as they could be going through tough financial problems too. It is not as simple for them to just pack up and go home due to their rental and study commitments. Many of them have already paid up to $20,000 for their current semester. Their universities have not closed down but gone online as they do not want to lose the income from their students, and they may not give a refund if they terminate their studies.
Unfortunately, the international students are not eligible for the government’s generous $130 billion wage subsidy. The eligible Australians will get a jobkeeper payment of $1,500 per fortnight even if they lost a part-time job with income of $500. The international students will get nothing in spite of paying the tax and the high price-discriminated tuition fees (which must be illegal) for years.
We cannot afford to look after them like we do to our own citizens, but we can at least offer them may be a nominal amount of $500 per fortnight to cover their rental and food expenses? It will cost Australia $3.3 billion which is not even 10% of $37 billion. If it is not possible, then, let them access their superannuation funds at least?
If Australia looks after them in these unprecedented, difficult times, they will look after Australia when we get to the brighter side. If we abandon them now, we might as well say good-bye to our $35 billion export industry and we will be known as country of selfish people without a heart. The choice is ours.