The government of New Zealand is cracking down on hostels that use volunteers. They currently have 60 inspectors who will begin conducting sting operations over the next six months to catch hostels in the act. They plan to increase that number to 110 inspectors by 2020.
In the article, Government to crack down on free labour hostels, Unite union national secretary Gerard Hehir said:
You can have two businesses side by side, and if one has "volunteers" doing the cleaning, and they are not paying tax, their costs will be substantially lower. The hostel next door, trying to do the right thing, maybe even trying to pay a living wage, is under extreme pressure because their costs are much higher.
Until recently hostels caught working with volunteers were given a grace period to shift those people over to employment. Now officials are getting stricter.
The problems with using volunteers mentioned in the article include:
- Blatant disregard for the law
- Lack of employment contracts
- No taxes paid
- Unfair competition against hostels offering legal employment
- Exploitation of backpackers
- No health or safety protection
- Damage to prospects of people seeking employment in the industry
Mr. Hehir said that the crackdown is not limited to hostels either. They also have WWOOFing hosts in their sights.
Work exchange arrangements and using volunteers have become common practice among hostels worldwide, so it seems particularly relevant for the rest of the industry to keep an eye on this development.
Here is another discussion thread from a couple years ago about where in the world it IS legal to have volunteers in hostels: Is it legal to use volunteers in a for-profit hostel?
What’s your opinion on government crackdowns on hostels that use volunteers?