Precarious Housing for International Students

International students are some of the most vulnerable individuals of Australia’s society. International students have extremely struggled to survive within Australian and get by on basic everyday essentials, prior to COVID-19. However, as the COVID-19 outbreak became a global crisis, there has been an increase in the struggle of everyday survival. As international students offer a significant contribution to the Australian economy, it is important to be able to support international students, in order to support Australia.

How have international students been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Based on research conducted during 2018 2019, it was found that international education created over ‘250,000 jobs’ and ‘contributed over $37 billion to the economy’. International students further contribute to the Australian economy by ‘paying fees’ and ‘spending locally’. However, during 2020, international students have faced a struggle to support themselves, due to COVID-19. A survey, consisting of more than 5000 international students holding a temporary visa, presented that about ‘65%’ of these students have lost their jobs. Another research survey conducted, that consisted of 800 students who are struggling to live and study in Australia, presented that ‘30%’ of these students have, at least once, gone without meals; due to a shortage of money. While ‘25%’ of these students have resorted to selling their personal possessions to be able to obtain money. Universities, such as Macquarie University, have provided students with vouchers, grants and financial assistant loans, as well as, provided students employment programs and job rescues; to able to support themselves and survive.

A significant number of students have been found to live on an income of less than $300, which is extremely troubling if they live in Sydney or Melbourne. Many students have made it known that they struggle to pay rent, struggle to afford everyday essentials and struggle to pay university fees. Food services have contributed to the support of international students, by creating food hampers that contain basic essentials; as well as, offer food coupons that can afford students extra essentials that may not be provided. Financial stress is a significant aspect to the reason that students have resorted to seeking aid from food relief services. Therefore, the state has granted ‘$2 million for funding’ of COVID-19 emergency relief services in March. However, this support has a limited time frame. It is not enough long-term.

Why do international students need support to be offered during this global crisis?

Although, it has been suggested to international students to return home, if they are unable to support themselves here; due to the lack of eligibility of full government support. However, students find it extremely difficult and almost impossible to return home, as borders are closed. Moreover, it is very expensive which increases international students’ fear that if they return home, they may not be able to return to Australia to complete their studies. ‘1 in 5’ international students feel that they are on the verge of homelessness. ‘1 in 7’ have found that they are no longer able to pay their rent. Only ‘1 in 5’ have been able to successfully negotiate reduction of rent. While ‘1 in 6’ have been able to reach an agreement with the landlord to defer payments. However, ‘1 in 10’ have been threatened with eviction.

How can support be offered to International Students?

The pandemic has only worsened the conditions that were already existing for international students. Due to lack of awareness of their rights, students have been exploited and manipulated when searching for housing and survival, which has hindered a successful transition to life in Australia. Students should be given more suitable and reliable information on the places, prices and conditions that they can afford to live in, making it somewhat easier for students to survive in Australia. Moreover, as many students cannot return home and cannot survive here, there seems to be a very troubling future for international students, that needs to be addressed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, easing of limitations can allow international students to survive in Australia, during the global pandemic. It is also important to maintain Australia’s reputation of a lucky, accommodating and fair country, by treating international students fairly.

Listen to the full episode of Think: Sustainability – Precarious Housing Part Two: International Students here.

Monday 26th of October, 2020

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