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International students allowed to work more hours to help ease COVID worker shortage

International students will be allowed to get more hours to help alleviate the labor shortage As more people are being forced into isolation due to the Omicron COVID-19 outbreak in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that the federal government will remove the 40-hour limit every two weeks on workers holding student visas, meaning they will have no restrictions on the number of hours they can work.

Forty-hour work restrictions on international student visa holders for people working in the tourism and hospitality industry were lifted in May last year.

Mr Morrison has encouraged international students to return to Australia, and backpackers are also allowed to enter the country on work leave visas, provided they are fully vaccinated.

There has been a labor shortage in food distribution and manufacturing industries recently because a large number of workers had to isolate due to the increase in coronavirus cases.

International students welcomed the move.(AAP: Paul Miller)

Emergency services and food distribution workers in New South Wales and Queensland who are in close contact with them can leave isolation to go to work, if they do not have any symptoms.

High-risk contacts, such as people living with a positive case of COVID-19, should have a rapid antigen test every two days until the sixth day of their isolation period.

From Wednesday next week, Victorian workers in emergency services, education, vital facilities, custodial facilities, transportation and shipping can be exempted from isolation as close contacts, extending the exemption that already applies to health care workers and food and drink distribution.

The Australian High Health Commission has recommended state and territory leaders consider increasing the number of workers allowed to leave self-isolation.

International students welcome the decision

Malvin Geonardo is an Indonesian student studying human resource management and working as a part-time construction worker in Sydney.

He said he was pleased to hear the work restrictions were removed.

Malvin Gunardo
This means that more students will be able to help in his workplace, says Malvin Gunardo.(Supplied: Malvin Gunardo)

He’s been working at the construction company 20 hours a week for the past two years.

“I am happy with this new regulation because it means that my country [international student] Friends can work longer hours and I need to cover a lot of things at work.”

He said many workers have returned to their home countries after Sydney’s first shutdown, which means the company he works for has struggled to find workers.

Mark McKenzie, chief executive of the Association of Australian Amenities and Petroleum Marketers (ACAPMA), told ABC the decision was welcome news for gas station owners.

“The extension of visa hours will provide significant relief to the pressure point we currently have in our workforce,” said Mr. McKenzie.

7-Eleven generic brand.
Gasoline retailers say it will help reduce hiring pressures in their industry.(AAP: Julian Smith)

He said between 10 and 12 percent of workers in the gasoline retail industry have been in isolation due to COVID-19 – about half of them have coronavirus and the other half because they were in close contact.

“The situation in the fuel industry is very different from the grocery industry. What we’re doing is we’re managing the problem as it is right now with a little outage in the workforce.”

The decision could put more pressure on international students

President of the Council of Australian International Students (CISA) Oscar Ze Chau Aung said many students would welcome the government’s decision.

However, Mr. Ong said international students already spend about 40 hours a week at the university, attending lectures and tutorials and working on assignments.

A man in a red suit and tie smiling
Oscar Ong says international students have to juggle work hours and study commitments.(supplied)

He said that putting a greater workload on international students to fill the labor shortage will put additional pressure on students already trying to meet university deadlines.

“The biggest question is that the international students came here to study,” said Mr. Ong.

“If you’re asking them to only work as a skilled worker, the question is should they get a different visa instead of a student visa?”

He said international students may not be aware of the changing rules and study requirements, especially new students who have recently arrived in Australia.

“I think it’s a very dangerous situation for them because they are not going to get the right advice,” he said.

He said making international students work more could put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

“So who will be responsible for their care, if international students get sick?”

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