Made shortly before the end of 2018, the decision will see in-study work rights remain at their current levels and concludes changes to overseas student work rights for the time being after the government overhauled post-study rights the same year.
“We think it would have been a major step backwards”
Immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway confirmed to The PIE plans to change the work rights of students while they study had been postponed.
“The government plans to carefully monitor the effects of the November changes to post-study work rights before deciding whether any further action is necessary,” Lees-Galloway explained.
“Alongside this, the government is continuing work on changes to temporary work visas and considering possible changes to prevent migrant worker exploitation.”
Uncovered during investigations for an upcoming article in The PIE Review, halting alterations to in-study work rights was influenced by preliminary recommendations from educators as part of research looking into migrant worker exploitation, and comes well before the expected deadline.
“The government will engage with representatives of migrants, businesses, workers, academics and international students to provide independent perspectives and to test ideas,” Lees-Galloway said at the November 2018 research announcement.
“This is a thorough review, and will take time. I expect to make decisions in 2019. In the meantime, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will continue to take action against those who exploit migrants.”
With changes now scrapped, in-study work rights will remain at up to 20-hours per week during studies, and unlimited hours during designated breaks, as long as international students meet other requirements, including provider and study type, and age restrictions.
The decision to wait and see before making further changes to New Zealand’s international education sector, which has already seen a new international education strategy, has been welcomed by the country’s educators.
“We think it would have been a major step backwards,” Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan said.
“Certainty and stability is what we’re looking for”
“Getting meaningful employment after you graduate, no matter what you’ve studied, if you don’t actually have some history of… relevant work experience, your chance of getting into meaningful employment is significantly compromised.”
Whelan added that UNZ believed both domestic and international students should be encouraged to find qualification-relevant work during their studies to help with graduate employability.
Executive director of English New Zealand Kim Renner said keeping in-study work rights as they currently were helped the country remain competitive, especially after the English language sector lobbied to have them extended to their students in 2014.
“I think that it’s something that clearly is a positive contribution not only economically, it attracts students… but it also is great for students,” she said, observing that wages earnt during studies were often used on additional tourism services.
“It’s about being part of New Zealand society in an emersion environment. That’s really positive for both the student and for New Zealanders, and that’s a critical part of the New Zealand international education strategy.”
Speaking on behalf of private training and education representative group ITENZ, Clare Bradley, chief executive of Aspire 2International said any further changes “would have been unwelcomed”.
“Certainty and stability is what we’re looking for,” she added.
The decision to hold steady on in-study work rights sees the government continue its softening of rhetoric, after campaigning to lock out low-level qualification students from working while studying, unless part of their education.
Then education spokesperson Chris Hipkins, who became education minister after his party took power, flagged the possibility of an approval process to link specific sub-degree level qualifications with work during NZIEC 2017.
The 2019 New Zealand International Education Conference will take place from 7-8 August in Auckland.