Five food delivery riders have been killed on Australia roads in the past three months. At least one was an international student, Bijoy Paul.
Bijoy – who was studying for a masters of information technology – was hit by a car in Sydney on November 21 while delivering an order of McDonald’s for Uber Eats. He later died of his injuries.
Two days later, another Uber Eats rider was killed in a collision with a truck in Sydney.
A job in the ‘gig economy’ delivering for one of the big food delivery companies is attractive to many international students because the jobs are relatively easy to get and the hours are flexible.
Utkarsh, an international student who arrived in Australia in 2018 to study a masters in construction and infrastructure management at Swinburne University, said that food delivery riding is “the most popular job and the very first thing we do.” He started as a food delivery rider because “the hours are flexible and you can easily get employed.”
Other students told Swinburne University similar things:
…it’s a good way to explore the city while earning money … the flexibility helped me concentrate more on my academics.
…no reference was required and I got the job immediately.
…it was flexible for my masters study [but] payments are low and not to Australian standards. It still helps for living.
Utkarsh says that desire to deliver as fast as possible (to make more money), and a lack of deep understanding of road rules and local traffic habits, leads to risks for international students.
Swinburne University is taking a lead on creating a program focused on safety for international students working in the gig economy. Swinburne is cooperating on the initiative with the employment legal rights service JobWatch, road safety organisation Fit to Drive, and Study Melbourne.
Desma Smith, an international student adviser at Swinburne, is a driving force behind the new program. She’s motivated by the “steady stream of injuries” she has seen to international students working as food delivery riders.
I have dealt with several critical incidents.
At a previous institution there was a young man who lost a leg and who faces his future in a wheelchair. I had another student who broke both wrists.Desma Smith, International Student Advisory & Support, Swinburne University
Desma thinks that international students are particularly vulnerable when riding because they lack local traffic knowledge and are not given enough safety training.
I can drive down the street and see a delivery driver and pretty much pick whether it’s an international student or not. You can sort of see whether there’s a local knowledge or local wisdom, or guesswork going on.
The new safety program will be launched on Wednesday 1 December.