TOP’s youth UBI policy a step in the right direction
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has welcomed a recent policy announcement by The Opportunities Party (TOP) for a universal grant to young people aged 18-23.
NZUSA has long called for a universal student allowance, noting the inefficiencies, unfairness and invasiveness of means-tested allowances in recent decades, and it has encouraged explorations into UBI in the past.
‘In this important election year, politicians need to speak to the lived realities of young people, and allow for their issues to be brought up into the political system’, says National President Jonathan Gee.
‘Means-testing for student allowances has proven invasive, inefficient and unreflective of the financial independence of many young people. We welcome policies that look toward universality, and TOP’s youth universal basic income policy is a step in the right direction’, Gee says.
Gee however disputes TOP’s inaccurate and dismissive comments about tertiary education participation. TOP leader Gareth Morgan stated that only 30% of young people are in tertiary education, and that supporting students in university is middle class welfare as most were well-off.
‘We know that tertiary education is a powerful social lever which takes many disadvantaged communities out of poverty and reduces inequality. Dismissing it as a middle-class aspiration ignores the public value of education. We want education to be available for all those currently locked out of tertiary study, not to reject their dreams’, Gee said.
In 2015, there were 450,000 students in provider-based study, and 160,000 in workplace-based study. Thirty-five per cent of 18-24 year olds were in provider-based study alone, plus a number from that age group in workplace-based tertiary level education. This suggests that the overall number of young people in tertiary education is considerably more than 30%.
‘Morgan seems to believe that only those at university are engaged in tertiary-study. Yet he forgets that those in polytechnics, wānanga, industry training, community providers and apprenticeships are also engaged in tertiary education.’
Gee calls on TOP engage with students and young people in the development of future policy.
‘While this policy is a start, it must acknowledge the rising living costs faced by students and young people and also speak to their lived experiences. For example, while financial security is a significant factor in the mental health crisis and suicide rate of young people, we know from talking to them that there are also a range of other significant factors, such as the trauma and stress they carry with them, or that they are currently facing in other parts of their lives.’
NZUSA is the national voice of students in tertiary education. The organisation is governed by students’ associations from universities and polytechnics around the country.