“Lack of Jobs Gives Students Chance to Study More, Eat Less.” – OUSA

“Lack of Jobs Gives Students Chance to Study More, Eat Less.” – OUSA

Total Student Job Search (SJS) earnings in Otago have dropped by 12 per cent, equating to a loss of income of more than $450,000 over the course of the past year. Total weeks worked was also down 12 per cent, from 8,094 in the corresponding period last year to 7,145 this year.

The corresponding average hourly rate for all jobs sourced through SJS was $11.60, significantly lower than the statutory minimum wage of $13.75. However, the reasons for this disparity are unclear.

The figures were released last Thursday by OUSA, which is responsible for running SJS in the region, and were entitled “Lack of jobs give students chance to study more, eat less.” Critic speculates that such astounding humour can only be credited to working in close proximity to our own bustling office.

“The figures are a disappointing read this month – all employment figures are down,” said Francisco Hernandez, OUSA President. “It couldn’t come at a worse time for students with allowance cuts already making life difficult.”

The cuts Hernandez is referring to were targeted at postgraduate students, who are no longer able to take out a student allowance. The government has also placed further restrictions on student allowance eligibility, effective from the start of next year.

Furthermore, the most students can borrow from Studylink for student living costs is $173.56 per week. Studylink’s calculated cost of living as a student in Dunedin is $264.85, leaving a deficit of $91.29 that can only be made up by further loans, entitlement or work.

For this reason, it is unsurprising that the 2013 OUSA Student Survey ranked Student Job Search as the second most important service OUSA provides. “Students are keen to work; what we need in Dunedin are the jobs that provide a chance for students and the public to make the most of the free service,” Hernandez says.

The University’s estimated cost “to live comfortably” in a flat was between $15,000 and $17,000 annually. This equates to between $375 and $425 per week over the course of a 40-week academic year – the lowest of these figures more than $110 (or 42 per cent) greater than Studylink’s estimates.

However, it is likely that the University’s figure has been exaggerated to make University-owned Residential Colleges appear more attractive to prospective students. When this was put to the University, however, the University did not respond. The University’s estimated cost for these colleges comes in at $12,586.50 per year, or $315 per week for a 40-week academic year.

Given that a breakdown of Studylink’s figures shows lines for expenses as varied as transport, clothing, leisure and makeup, it is difficult to imagine that the University has a valid reason for such a significant difference. Either way, this further convolutes an already difficult budget calculation for students.

The SJS income drop comes soon after figures were released showing Otago’s overall unemployment rate rising to 6.3 per cent, an increase of 37 per cent in the year to June. This represents the highest unemployment rate in the South Island.
This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2013.
Posted 2:29pm Sunday 11th August 2013 by Zane Pocock.