International student hour changes impact ECEC
The Sector > Jobs News > International student restrictions may be impacting workforce shortages in ECEC

International student restrictions may be impacting workforce shortages in ECEC

by Freya Lucas

July 07, 2023

A decision to cut back on the number of hours that international students are able to work at a time when the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector are desperate for educators has been criticised by some in the sector, with Grattan Institute Chief Executive Danielle Wood describing it as a “head in the sand” approach. 


These concerns have been exacerbated by a pending rise in child care subsidy, which is expected to drive increased demand when it comes in from 10 July. 


The international student changes came into effect on 1 July, and limit students to working 48 hours a fortnight.


The severe lack of staff is adding to parents’ costs and cutting access to placements, childcare providers say, and the government’s plan to restrict international students’ work hours from Saturday will further hamper centres’ ability to fill rosters just as higher government rebates of up to 90 per cent kick in from 10 July, increasing demand.


In a discussion with The Sydney Morning Herald, Ms Wood said it appeared that the Government was taking an approach of “hoping for the best while not necessarily preparing for the worst”.


Australian Childcare Alliance President Paul Mondo commented in the same piece, expressing concern that many centres are already struggling to find sufficient staff, with almost 7,400 vacancies in the ECEC sector in May alone. 


Independent MP Dai Le said her south-west Sydney electorate of Fowler had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at the same time as workplaces such as ECEC services were desperate for staff.


“At times like this, the government needs to pivot and take the opportunity to create employment pathways for people like international students who are already here to be able to work, or people on temporary protection visas for example,” she said. 


Drawing a comparison with the aged care sector, which has also been facing workforce shortages, Warringah independent Zali Steggall said a reprieve from the hourly caps to international students working in ECEC should be considered as the ECEC sector is one where high needs exist, along with retail and hospitality. 


“To have students who are willing to work but unable to do so is a missed opportunity,” Ms Steggall said.


To access the Sydney Morning Herald coverage referenced above, please see here.

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