Australia: Supermarkets in Locked-Down Regions Permitted to Employ Int’l Students for Over 40 Hours per Fortnight

International students in Australia will be permitted to work at supermarkets located in States and Territories subject to COVID-19 lockdowns for more than 40 hours per fortnight, the Australian government has announced.

The decision came after the supermarket sector urged for immediate relief as many staff were told to self-isolate, Erudera.com reports.

​“This temporary measure will allow international students to work more than 40 hours per fortnight in all New South Wales and Victorian supermarkets and associated distribution facilities for the duration of their respective lockdown periods,” a press release issued by the Department of Home Affairs reads.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said that the temporary measure ensures that supermarkets can continue offering their essential services to the community as well as provide the essential workers with “added income flexibility during lockdowns.” 

“Supermarket workers have been unsung heroes of the pandemic. They stepped up to ensure Australians have access to essential items, and they have kept doing so during the pandemic’s darkest days,” Minister Hawke said.

In June this year, the Department of Home Affairs decided to relax the working hours for student visa holders employed in Aged and Disability Care, tourism, agriculture, and hospitality industry, as well as for visa holders providing health services across the country.

Students who will be working for more than 40 hours per fortnight are obliged to remain enrolled in their courses, attend lessons and show progress. Furthermore, those who have completed their course and have received employment offers in the abovementioned industries can apply for a COVID-19 Pandemic (subclass 408) visa.

According to the government’s statistics, 300,000 students in Australia face the 40-hour fortnight limit on working hours while pursuing studies at the same time.

Last month, the Australian government announced it would provide international students in the country with access to an emergency payment as part of the government’s temporary support scheme for workers during the lockdown. Those entitled to the support include Australian citizens, permanent residents, and eligible working visa holders, including international students.

A survey by the Unions NSW conducted last year involving over 5,000 temporary visa holders (67 percent of them being student visa holders) revealed that 65 percent of survey participants had lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic; 60 percent for international students, whereas 39 percent of respondents claimed they were unable to cover their living expenses.

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