• June 10, 2020
STUDENTS ARE DISADVANTAGED BY THE CASUAL JOBS THEY WORK. PHOTO: LIZZY CARMINE.
The government's age-old assumption students are supported by their parents prevents access to the Covid-19 income relief payment.
To qualify for the benefit, applicants must have lost one job with 15 or more hours of work per week.
New Zealand Union of Student’s Association (NZUSA) president Isabella Lenihan-Ikin said there’s a “two-class benefit system.”
“The benefit is essentially for people who are wealthy and have lost their jobs.”
She said the requirements will limit most students who work part time.
“Students, by design, work in very precarious employment; we work in low paid jobs and typically have to be at the whim of our employers,” she said.
“Although that is a beneficial step there are so many people on the unemployment benefit who are in poverty because they are stuck in the welfare trap,” said Ms Lenihan-Ikin.
New Zealand university students generally study 40 hours per week, while supporting themselves financially.
A communications student at AUT who wishes to remain anonymous, was made redundant from a job and is unable to get the subsidy.
“I was working 10 hours as an intern for a public relations firm, and 10 hours as a retail assistant.
“I know people would be in much tougher circumstances than me and understand how helpful this subsidy will be for them - I’m grateful to still be currently employed.”
A NZUSA study found students work 13 hours per week on average, often across multiple jobs.
“Immediately those students aren’t specifically excluded by the policy, but by design they are.
“Parliament assumes that students get help from their parents,” said Ms Lenihan-Ikin.
But many parents are still paying off their own debt and are unable to help their children, she said.
She said it is more difficult for students from larger families, particularly Maori and Pacific students with more siblings.
“It is really important that we look at it from that ethnic perspective because it is discriminatory, that policy in that regard as well, based on that assumption.
“We need to break down that assumption and look at how parents are actually able to contribute.”