2017 – Penalty Rates Inquiry

Attachment: Submission to the penalty rates common matter by CAPA 2017

Overview – a degree is not optional

Educational attainment increasingly means the difference between being employed and being unemployed. As a result, more people than ever are enrolling in higher education, and even more will do so in the future. Students frequently work while studying in order to make ends meet, and are employed within the retail, hospitality, and fast-food sectors. Shifts in penalty rates have a significant financial impact on these students, as well as on their ability to succeed at university.

Changes to penalty rates are an issue for university students across Australia, including those undertaking postgraduate level qualifications such as Coursework Masters or Doctoral (PhD) degrees. The challenges facing these students are many, however, one key area requiring closer consideration is the relationship between postgraduates’ income support, work, and studies.

Work and study can be immensely stressful. While attending university can be a challenging and rewarding pursuit, short deadlines and long hours are common. Students that need to work while they study face additional challenges and stresses: financial, mental, and emotional.

This report presents information on penalty rates and their importance to postgraduate students. We make three key arguments:

  1. The diversity of the postgraduate student cohort means that postgraduates are impacted differently than undergraduates by a change in penalty rates.
  2. Postgraduate students are already struggling to balance the inflexible requirements of work and study. Changes to income streams such as penalty rates will make this even more difficult.
  3. Postgraduates in Australia are in need of better income support arrangements, in order to avoid the negative outcomes of penalty rate changes.

In order to support these arguments, we report on an exploratory study undertaken by CAPA. We collect a series of student case studies, focusing particularly on postgraduate beneficiaries of penalty rates who require them in order to continue their studies.