WELLINGTON, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- Migrant and local workers are being overworked and underpaid in New Zealand's main industries, according to a report on worker exploitation out Wednesday.
People were working 80 to 90 hours a week for 500 NZ dollars (360 U.S. dollars), being paid for half the hours they work and paying their own salary to "buy" permanent residency, said the study from the University of Auckland.
The study found exploitation of workers was widespread across key industries.
"These industries form the lifeblood of New Zealand's economy," researcher Dr Christina Stringer said in a statement.
"As well as being a serious human rights issue, findings of migrant worker exploitation puts New Zealand's reputation at risk."
Stringer interviewed 105 people over two years, mostly workers on a temporary migrant work visa, and men aged in their 20s to 40s.
The most common forms of exploitation included: excessive working hours with up to 18-hour shifts; no pay or severe underpayment; degrading treatment; and cash-for-residency schemes in which workers paid cash to their employers who returned it as their "wage."
A group of mainly Filipino construction workers talked of debt bondage to get jobs in the rebuilding of earthquake-battered Christchurch.
There were also anecdotal accounts of Chinese and Vietnamese construction workers being exploited in the biggest city of Auckland.
Worker exploitation was also uncovered in New Zealand's pillar dairy industry and in the horticulture and hospitality sectors.
Temporary migrants hired to provide cosmetic services and therapeutic massages had been expected to provide sexual services, which was unlawful for non-citizens and non-residents.
Many temporary migrants tolerated exploitation so they could qualify for permanent residency or because they were coerced of deceived by their employer, said Stringer.
The study was commissioned by a group of six non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who called on the government to set up a human trafficking office to coordinate responses to human trafficking and labor exploitation.
Among other recommendations, they also urged the government to consider legislation to prohibit companies with forced labor in their supply chain from operating in New Zealand.
Stringer also took part in a 2011 study that exposed serious labor and human rights abuses on foreign charter fishing vessels in New Zealand waters.
That research triggered a ministerial inquiry and law changes requiring foreign charter vessels to reflag as New Zealand vessels in New Zealand waters.