Report finds international students contribute billions to Australia’s economy

International student Prashanth Goud Bodiga. Photo: supplied.

Three weeks ago, Prashanth Goud Bodiga lost his job as a food delivery driver after the business he worked for closed.

International students like Prashanth are experiencing extreme hardship, having lost a source of income through no fault of their own, as states around Australia go into lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus.

“It has brought a great impact in my life – I lost my job that I had used to pay my bills, rent and my daily necessities,” the 22 year old says.

“Now I am struggling and have to ask my parents for money all the time, and it’s very difficult.”

But his parents are also currently facing an economic crisis of their own, back in his home country.

“I feel bad sometimes, as my parents are facing the pandemic as well and they are not working now due to the lock-down there,” he says.

“There is no source of income neither for them nor me.”

He describes it like a nightmare where the rules are changing every single moment as authorities try to stem the growth of a pandemic few people thought they would see in their lifetimes.

With a fear of contracting the virus, and concerned over the cost of and access to treatment as an international student, Prashanth says he takes necessary precautions.

He adds that he stays at home as much as possible.

On the other hand, he thinks having his education delivered online is actually something of benefit to him.

“I am saving a lot of my travelling expenses as online learning has been adopted by the university – it is difficult however it works for me.”

With Australia’s borders being shut, the loss of future cohorts of international students like Prashanth has a flow-on effect; according to modelling by Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, a cumulative loss of ten to nineteen billion dollars to the Australian economy from 2020-2023 is likely.


Percentage of revenue from international students at Victorian universities. Source: the Mitchell Institute


Prashanth said that it would be helpful if the federal government extended some aid.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the media that it was a requirement for students who enter the country to be able to support themselves for the first 12 months of study.

“When we first came into the country, we thought that we would find a part-time job to support ourselves in paying rents and our bills,” Prashanth says.

“We do not expect to pay our tuition fees out of the money that we earn, so in my opinion if we get financial help in any which way possible which is just enough for our daily necessities that would be great.”

International Students have absolutely no access to the federal government’s Jobseeker payments, and are having to deal with the crisis without any sort of financial help that is available to Australian citizens and residents.

Since the lockdowns were announced, these students have had to rely on charities, and crisis programs which have been set up by their individual universities.

If they are studying in Melbourne, a recently announced package from the Victorian state government is expected to offer some relief.

Citing ABS data, the Mitchell Institute report says “for every $1 lost in university tuition fees, there is another $1.15 lost in the broader economy due to international student spending.”

Prashanth feels it is not fair if international students do not qualify for help from the Australian government.

“I think it’s unfair because everyone is a human being and we are all affected now – being an international student, it is even more difficult as the living expenses are high,” he says.

“So, if the government could help us with monthly aid like how the citizens here are receiving it, it would be very helpful.”