The University of Melbourne – A Fair Day’s Work: Detecting Wage Theft with Data

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Paul Ramsay Foundation Award

The University of Melbourne


Young workers face an epidemic of underpayment and exploitation – popularly known as wage theft. Young workers are especially vulnerable to wage theft, for reasons that include: a culture of wage theft in industries where young people make up the majority of employees; a lack of awareness of workplace rights; reluctance to complain about exploitation, and lack of resourcing for proactive detection of non-compliance by the regulator. This last point, in turn, makes it difficult for regulators, unions, and other organizations to detect wage theft, let alone address it. Wage theft also impacts business by creating an anti-competitive effect: unscrupulous businesses exploiting workers gain a competitive advantage over businesses who comply with employment laws — which then normalizes wage theft in certain industries.

The University of Melbourne proposes a multi-pronged approach that aims to support young people at risk of wage theft while also providing data for regulators, policymakers, and businesses to drive system change. The project will draw upon cross-disciplinary expertise in labor law and regulation, digital design, information science, UX design, data analysis, and data ethics to design/develop three interlinked components: the Fair Day’s Work portal, a Wage Theft Database, and finally, a Wage Theft Prediction Tool.