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NZ: Wage Subsidy Scheme open for int’l students

The government of New Zealand is permitting international students in the country to benefit from the Wage Subsidy Scheme if they are missing out on work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The government removed the 20 hours per week cap for international students working at supermarkets over the four week lockdown period in New Zealand. Photo: pixabay

The value of the education international students are currently receiving is disproportionate to the cost"

The scheme, announced by finance minister Grant Robertson and social development minister Carmel Sepuloni on April 7, will support over 1 million workers – some 41% of the country’s workforce.

Over 12 weeks, the government will provide between NZ$8bn-NZ$12bn to businesses. For each full-time worker, businesses will receive a lump sum payment of $7,029.60, and for each part-time worker, $4,200.

It will cover part-time employees or those employed on a casual or contract basis

The wage subsidy will cover international students who are legally entitled to work and were employed by a New Zealand employer before the Covid-19 outbreak. It will cover part-time employees or those employed on a casual or contract basis.

Students working for supermarkets or in the health care sector are classified as essential workers and are able to increase their hours, but must still meet the study requirements of their student visa, Brett Berquist, director International at The University of Auckland highlighted.

As in Australia, the NZ government has removed the 20 hours per week cap for international students working at supermarkets over the four-week lockdown period, and for students working in healthcare sector for a three-month period.

While this is welcome news, student group NZISA is also advocating for tuition fee reductions for the first half of 2020.

In a media release entitled International Student Fees: What are we paying for?, the group writes “The value of the education international students are currently receiving is disproportionate to the cost they are paying to institutions.”

It suggests fee reimbursements of 50% for the first half of the academic year (lockdown began in New Zealand on 26 March) and fee reductions for the second half of the year “in the event that the New Zealand government decides to maintain Alert Level 3 or 4 in response to Covid-19”.

Stakeholders have also warned education providers in the country to brace for a drop in new international enrolments due to the global pandemic.

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