Eimier Kelly, Dublin City University Communications student, was a retail assistant receiving €8.65 an hour at the age of 20. She says her employers believed that a 2% commission would make up for the low wage. “It was hypothetical, and not realistic,” she says in hindsight. Eimer said, “The commission did fill in the gaps around holidays – especially Christmas, but any other time of the year it probably made little difference.”
Despite living wage being €12.30 an hour in Ireland, minimum wage still stands at €9.80. In the 2020 Budget, minimum wage was meant to rise by 30 cents, to €10.10, but that raise has been delayed due to the risk of a No-Deal Brexit.
Even further, minimum wage can go as low as €7.80 or €8.60 an hour for those in their first two years of employment – even if they are over the age of 18 – under the Employment Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2018.
Eimer Kelly added that she was extremely lucky, because she lived with her family in Dublin. So, she did not have expenses like rent and food to worry about. “But there were other students working in the shop who were in hour-heavy courses and did have to pay for rent and food. It wasn’t realistic.”
Eimer believes minimum wage in Ireland is not rising enough, especially in comparison to rising rent and education costs. She explained the living wage in Ireland should be the minimum wage, as people are trying to live off of those wages.
A recent report from the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) found that 74 per cent of students have to take on a job while studying and that 55 per cent are skipping lectures to go to work to cover financial costs.
Another student, aged 19 and currently working in retail, explained that they feared losing their job if they asked for less hours or a raise. “It took me so long to find a job, and I need to keep it to get by. But I am missing college to go to these shifts and it’s really starting to feel like it isn’t worth 8.60 an hour.” The student further stated , “I’m scared to ask [for a pay rise] because I can’t risk losing that income, even though it is so little…it just gets in the way of everything, like I am constantly stressing about not having enough money.”
Craig McHugh, Union of Students in Ireland Dublin Vice President, explained that students are also having to work to cover the cost of “tuition fees which are now the highest in the EU, and rent which has reached astronomical rates…” Regarding third level institutions he said they are “seriously strapped for cash because of the government’s inaction on higher education funding” and that the SUSI grant is, “a system that’s been crippled and is drastically under funded on rates that were low 7 years ago.”
Dublin City University’s Student Union Welfare and Equality Officer, Aisling Fagan, said “it’s a massive issue” and added “[working conditions] can easily impact a student’s mental health and negatively impact their university experience.”
The ILCU report found that 44 per cent of students did not think their third level institute gave efficient financial support or budgeting help. Fagan mentioned that DCU have a team who help students with finance and even have an officer specifically for budgeting and financing. She said these services are seeing an increase in demand as they are “seeing more and more people knock on that door.”
But added that “it all needs to come back to publicly funded education. And there needs to be more regulation in place for workplaces – many managers want to pay their employees more but simply can’t.” Similarly, McHugh explained more support was needed for students but “we also need economic change. We need to eradicate the norm that is precarious working contracts, now and forever.”
Photo on Piqsel
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