Studylink, where’s my allowance?

Students have had a hard time over summer. I arrived in Hamilton to look for somewhere to live in November of 2012, and while I’d sussed out some empty flats to look at via Trade-Me, nothing prepared me for the state of the place when I got here – whole suburbs were ghost towns of empty student flats, and all I saw on campus when inquiring about post-grad papers were International students doing bridging courses over summer.



Eventually it sank into my stressed-out brain that there were no students here ‘cos they’d all gone home to parents, some of them for jobs but mostly for the free room and board.



Then Studylink announces its new parameters, and suddenly a bunch of previously capable and successful students (postgraduates) were persona-non-grata for study support, and indeed, enrollment in a New Zealand University. This is probably the greatest shift in student allowance availability since the Student Loans Act was passed in 1992. 
Cue tickets to Australia, and a windfall for Monash and its ilk. 
Knowledge Economy, it isn’t.



What are the current batch of undergrad’s supposed to make of this? 
How confident are you, handing in assignments, going to tutorials, aiming for the ‘A’ grade, when suddenly those who were your tutors last year have been told ‘don’t come back’, unless they have no need for student allowances or student loans to cover study costs.



Someone needs to tell the Minister of Education, the Hon Hekia Parata, that this is an unreasonable way to treat those of our student community who have actual proven track record as successful students – after all, post-grad is not a forgone conclusion, it’s something some of us agonise over for a year after completing Hons; and some even go out into the workforce for a few years before returning with enough experience of life to really value our university opportunities. E-mail her here hekia.parata@parliament.govt.nz



What-the-Hekia, this is the longest Recession since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, this is actually the very economic situation that our social welfare ‘safety net’ was designed for – when global conditions go sour, NZ has very little resiliency, due to our over-exposure to export earnings. 



There were no jobs going for the one in four maaori or pasifika students without jobs this summer; and the jobless rate wasn’t much brighter for our ‘cream of the crop’ high achievers, either. 


The net unemployment rate for 15-19-year-olds in the year to December was 30.9% [that’s just under 1 in 3 of the cohort ‘not in employment, education or training’ (NEET)] and for the 20-25-year-old bracket, it’s 18.5% [over 1 in 6 NEET]. 
These are people who can’t get a student loan, entry to a course nearby, or a job. 
They’re the people who aren’t here on campus with you this year, out of the kids you might have known at secondary school.

I tried to get figures from SJS and Winz on student hardship unemployment uptake over summer, but had no replies.
This was going to be an article for Nexus, the student paper at Uni of Waikato, but they seem to have lost possession of their testicles and couldn’t find it in their teeny shrivelled hearts to criticise Hekia Parata, a former WSU President, so here it is on g.blog.

Don Brash – back in the saddle

Well, good on you Don, a great appointment by your mates, even though your idea of productivity is to lay off workers, cut wages, and privatise public assets.

Never mind Don. It doesn’t matter how immoral you are in the public eye. Because you’re not a politician any more, so it doesn’t matter to you – nothing to lose.

And, Don, guess you’re calling all the shots – like a loaded gun:

Oh dear, Don Brash has been appointed to head the Productivity Commission! Shit happens.

[Apologies to Steve Tyler (Liv Tyler’s dad, for younger readers) and Joe Perry who wrote this song. They would not have wanted it to be interpreted the brash way I have].

Goodbye recession

It might have seemed in the last couple of days that the big issue over in this small corner of the world has been the Toad vs Whale Oil feud.  Yawn.

But, there is other news that has caught our attention here at g.blog; the recession seems to be over, at least for wealthy Goldman Sachs bankers who needed to be bailed out by the US government less than a year ago.  They paid back their US$10 billion bail out and also posted a US$3.44 billion dollars in quarterly profit. This from the New York Times:

Even on Wall Street, the land of six- and seven-figure incomes, jaws dropped at the news Tuesday: After all that federal aid, a resurgent Goldman Sachs is on course to distribute bonuses that could rival the record paydays of the heady bull-market years.Goldman posted the richest quarterly profit in its 140-year history and, to the envy of its rivals, announced it had earmarked $11.4 billion so far this year to compensate its workers.

At that rate, Goldman workers could, on average, earn roughly $770,000 each this year — or nearly what they did at the height of the boom.

Senior Goldman executives and bankers would be paid considerably more. Only three years ago, Goldman paid more than 50 employees above $20 million each. In 2007, CEO Lloyd Blankfein collected one of the biggest bonuses in corporate history.

Meanwhile the reession that these bankers helped create has left over 6.5 million people jobless since December 2008.  Nearly half a million Americans lost their job in June alone and the unemployment rate, currently 9.5 percent, is still climbing.  That doesn’t include the tens of millions of workers who have lost and are about to lose their jobs in the rest of the world, New Zealand included.

So it seems it’s back onto the financial roundabout for everyone except all those who lost their job or are about to lose it.  Is anyone worried that collectively we may not have learnt the lesson embedded in all of this?

I’ll have a Big McPaula with lies please

The truth is out!

Sue Bradford questioned Minister of Social Development and Employment Paula Bennett in Parliament today.

Last week Paula Bennett revealed a supposed job creation agreement with McDonalds during a select committee meeting at Parliament. The agreement will (according to Bennett):

…provide up to 7000 unemployed for the fast-food chain’s restaurant expansion plans over the next five years…

Her Deputy Chief Executive said:

Under the deal with McDonald’s, Work and Income would help with the recruitment and training of 7000 staff in service roles and “positions which provide a career path”, Work and Income deputy chief executive Patricia Reade said.

“We’re very pleased that we will be able to offer unemployed people over the next five years opportunities in the food and hospitality trade,” she said.

McDonald’s intends to open 30 new restaurants over the next five years.

But today, under questioning from Sue Bradford, Paula Bennett has been caught out telling fibs. As Paula Bennett told Sue Bradford in Parliament:

It is a job subsidy for long-term beneficiaries, and it has been around for years. The job subsidy that goes with the individual is not new. The partnership and the way that we access those employees are different, but the job funding is not different or exceptional.

So there is nothing new about the arrangement with McDonalds. There is no special agreement – it is just what they have inherited from governements past. As Paula now admits, it’s been around for years.

As I suspected, National has no idea about how to create jobs and stimulate the economy in a recession. They won’t buy into the Green New Deal proposals, apart from the home insulation one that Labour had already been dragged screaming and kicking to agree to before the election.

This really is a clueless government as far as dealing with the recession goes. They sit back, hope all will come right in a year or two (in time for the next election) and watch untold thousands of New Zealanders being thrown on the unemployment scrapheap.

And their solution is to trot out an job placement and subsidy initiative that has existed for the last couple of decades in the hope that New Zealanders will see this as something new and McDonalds uptake of it as the solution to our financial and employment crisis.

Anyway, Paula, would you like fries with your financial and employment crisis? Because the economy and the unemployment statistics won’t come right until you actually do something, rather than rely on the somewhat parsimonious initiatives of those who have done something before you.

Paula’s new partner

Oh dear, this is just a really bad look for Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett.

Her vision for addressing New Zealand’s rising unemployment is a partnership that involves Work and Income “recruiting and training” 7000 staff to flip burgers for fast food multinational McDonalds.

Exactly what the “training” Work and Income will be providing is beyond me. I can’t imagine how it would take more than half a day to train someone to work in a fast food restaurant.

McDonalds has a reputation as a poor employer – paying low wages, providing insecure hours, and being vehemently anti-union.

They also have a poor sustainability record, a poor animal welfare record, target their advertising to children, and while their nutritional standards have improved somewhat in recent years, much of their food is still crap.

So Bennett sends 7000 people off to work in dead-end, menial, low-paid jobs at McDonalds, while cutting the access to Training Incentive Allowance that would get many beneficiaries the qualifications to get into well-paid and secure employment.

Go figure!