Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Finance - Foreign Workers Must Fork Out: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Finance - Foreign Workers Must Fork Out: News

Article excerpt

Visa holders forced to pay for education in Australian state.

Western Australia's recent mining boom has been hailed as the southern hemisphere's biggest economic success story for a decade. Because of this, thousands of temporary workers have flocked to the isolated state from around the world, lured by the promise of high wages.

But new plans to make immigrant workers pay towards their children's education could make working there a far less attractive option, critics say. They also claim that the plans to charge such families A$4,000 (Pounds 2,385) a year to send their children to state school could lead to those living in the most deprived rural communities being driven out of education altogether.

The state government, which generated tax revenues of more than A$8 billion last year, warned that it could not afford to cover the spiralling costs of teaching the thousands of extra students who have arrived at its schools.

But Martin Aldridge, a member of the state parliament for Western Australia's agricultural region and an outspoken opponent of the policy, said the plans could have catastrophic consequences for the children of the lowest-paid workers.

"It is my concern that people who have come to Australia on a [four-year temporary skilled worker] visa and have decided to reside in regional areas may now have little choice but to withdraw their children from local schools and return them to their home country," he said. "This could have a devastating effect on small towns, where these people have become contributing and respected members of the community."

Under the original proposal, people holding temporary working visas were to be charged a flat fee for the education of all their children, amounting to more than 8,000 students in total.

But after widespread opposition, the policy has been slightly watered down. The new system will not be implemented until 2015, and the A$4,000 fee will apply only to the first child in each family, with the cost of schooling subsequent children dropping to A$2,000 each. As a result, the scheme is now expected to generate just half of the A$120 million it was originally designed to bring in over four years.

Charging temporary workers to send their children to school is not unheard of in Australia: the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales have already introduced such fees. …

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