Reported by Stuart Neatby
High tuition has driven some international students at Langara College and elsewhere to work under the table, for pay rates below minimum wage.
Shila Avissa, who helped coordinate an international student task force at Douglas College back in 2013, believes high tuition rates drive students into these exploitative conditions.
“The main thing that we were asking was to have some kind of oversight on this matter, some kind of regulation of international student fees,” Avissa said.
The B.C. government has set a target of 141,000 international students for the 2016/17 school year.
International students pay more fees than domestic students
Most of them pay double or triple the tuition rates of domestic students, and can only legally work 20 hours a week.
A graduate of UBC, who is also a permanent resident, said he doesn’t want to be identified and risk his job at an accounting firm, where he works with several international students.
He said most international students hope to gain permanent residence status in Canada, and regularly work 11-hour days, including three hours unpaid.
“They need a reference letter to apply for [permament residence status] and, they can get a reference letter from [the] boss,” he said.
This letter can make the difference between a student leaving Canada or eventually becoming a resident after graduation.
Some international students are taken advantage of by their employers
One Langara student wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of deportation. She said that one of her first job experiences in Canada was at a small restaurant that offered to pay her in cash.
Her employer later refused to pay her after her first shift. She believes this is common among employers who hire students under the table.
“If you try to work under the table, they take advantage of you. For a week you have to work relentlessly, and then they just don’t pay you for that,” she said.
Some students are working for $4 per hour, $6.45 less than B.C.’s minimum wage.