A new study says Work and Income is pushing many beneficiaries into jobs that don't last - and even told a pregnant woman to start work as a beekeeper two weeks before she was due to give birth.

The master's thesis study by Victoria University student Alicia Sudden surveyed 234 people who came off welfare benefits since July 2013 and found only 143 (61 per cent) had any kind of paid work two years later. A fifth (49) had gone back on welfare, one in seven (34) were out of work but studying, and eight were not in paid work, on welfare or studying, mainly supported by partners.

Sudden interviewed six people in depth and found that pushing beneficiaries into precarious, low-paid work "can worsen individual and family wellbeing".

"Stephanie [not her real name], for example, was suggested by Winz [Work and Income] for a beekeeping position when she was eight and a half months pregnant," she found.


Later Stephanie found a job with a Work and Income wage subsidy but the job ended before the end of her initial 90-day trial so she is now back on the sole parent benefit.

Sudden said the agency should be more flexible and supportive and bring back a system of personalised case managers that was axed in 2010.

Social Development Ministry deputy chief executive Ruth Bound said the thesis "does not fairly reflect the work our people do each day to help improve the lives of New Zealanders we support".