NEW ZEALAND: Recession hits students in the pocket

New research shows New Zealand students have been hit hard by the global economic downturn - they have less part-time work, average incomes are down, and more of them are living at home with their parents.

The survey for the New Zealand Union of Students Associations (NZUSA) found 65% of students worked during the academic year last year, down from 90% three years ago.

Those who did find jobs worked fewer hours and earned less, with students' average annual income falling from $7,584 to $5,892 (from US$5,840 to US$4,540).

The survey found 77% of students took a no-interest government loan to cover their fees, up from 69% three years ago. But students were less likely to take on a credit card or an overdraft.

The number of students living at home with their parents had also increased from 26% to 38%.

The union's co-president, David Do, says that is a huge change. "Because it is harder to find work and average income is decreasing, students are becoming more dependent on debt but also students have had to move back home, students are losing their financial independence."

Overall, he says, students have little to celebrate as they head into a new academic year. "Fees are rising, debt is up, fewer students are able to remain debt-free, living costs have increased, and it is much harder to find work."

The survey also found strong support for keeping the government's student loans interest-free. Some argue the country can no longer afford to be so generous, but the NZUSA's survey found 90% of respondents supported it.

NZUSA co-president Max Hardy says that level of support means the policy is untouchable.

The research was based on the responses of 2,700 students at universities and polytechnics.