On Friday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for part-time workers from €350 to €203 a week, affecting students who were working part-time during the academic term.
For many students, the summer months are a time for saving money to pay for college accommodation and student fees. The payment cut affects those who were working part-time and making less than €200 a week prior to Covid-19. This does not take into account students who would have had prospective plans to work full-time during the summer months.
This new cut is also affecting students who would work on weekends during the academic term – Saturdays and Sundays on 8 hour shifts, on minimum wage which works out at only €161.60 per weekend.
UCD students, in particular, are heavily impacted by the exclusive residency of campus in Dublin 4. Salaryaftertax.com recommends spending no more than 30% of your income on rent, however, in Dublin 4 this is not always realistic.
The cheapest shared room on Daft.ie in Dublin 4 is currently €300 a month, which is 37% of the new unemployment payment. For a non-shared room, the cheapest accommodation is €500 a month, which is 61% of the payment, although the average private room is €700 a month, which is a hefty 86% of the unemployment payment.
People availing of campus accommodation in UCD will have to pay an average of €2627 for accommodation from May 19th to August 7th, which works out at €218 a week. This is not even covered by the COVID unemployment payment.
This is not to mention the students who are forced to remain in Dublin due to restrictions on movement applied in March, who would have left Dublin and lived rent free at home during the summer months.
The President of the Union of Students in Ireland said: “We are calling for the payment that is made to students to be based on the increased hours they had planned for the summertime and allow them to receive the full payment of €350. If that happens, they will still be receiving less than they would have in a minimum wage job for the summer, so are only asking to be treated fairly”.
The new unemployment payment works out at €812 a month, which is around half of minimum wage paid jobs, at €1616 a month.
The industries in which students commonly choose to work during the summer months are also amongst the most severely affected from the current restrictions, namely retail and hospitality.
Added to this, the prospect of getting a job during this time is increasingly difficult as 543,164 people are currently receiving the COVID unemployment payment as of last month. 21.2% of these people are under 25, which is expected to include a significant amount of third level students.
Rachel Healy – Reporter