Help for Marginalised Youth Critical - Harre
Office of the Hon Laila Harré
Minister of Women's Affairs
Minister of Youth Affairs
Associate Minister of Commerce
Associate Minister of Labour
21 January 2000
YOUTH AFFAIRS BRIEFING PAPERS RELEASED
Better income, work and education is critical if New Zealand is to boost the development potential of young people, says Youth Affairs Minister Laila Harré.
Briefing papers released today by the Ministry of Youth Affairs reveal the median annual income of 15 to 25-year-olds fell from $14,700 in 1986 to $8,100 in 1996.
By comparison, youth suicide rates have been increasing since 1984, and New Zealand has the second highest youth suicide rate in the OECD after Finland.
Laila Harré says youth are becoming marginalised in low-paid jobs that offer little opportunity for skills development or advancement.
"The focus has to be on improving the quality of these jobs and ensuring that education and training opportunities are available to all young people as soon as they leave school," Ms Harré says.
A review of the youth minimum wage is currently underway, which aims to redress the inequity between the minimum wage for youth and adults, Ms Harré says.
"It's my view that no one should be paid less for doing exactly the same work as someone working alongside them, even if that person is older," she says.
Ms Harré also wants young people to have more input into policy development through avenues such as youth councils, the Prime Minister's Youth Advisory Group and Youth Parliament.
"The solutions for young people have to driven by young people," she says.
The briefing papers reveal that young people consume a quarter of the total alcohol consumed in the country, and New Zealand has the highest OECD rate of road deaths in the 15 to 24-year-old age group.
"The negative statistics for this group have increased along with the increase in youth unemployment and the huge reduction in youth income," she says.
The briefing papers also highlight the need to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people.
Ms Harré says closing the gap in development outcomes between young Maori and Pacific Island people and their Pakeha counterparts is also a priority, as there are widening disparities between these groups for rates of teenage pregnancies, youth suicide, self-injury and mental health.
Maori and Pacific Islands youth are also more likely to leave school without qualifications, be unemployed and earn a low income.
And while today's young New Zealanders are better educated than previous generations, young people have higher unemployment rates than other groups.
"The needs of young people are more complex than ever before and I want to see a more co-ordinated approach to policy development for young people and the way policy is put in place," Ms Harré says.
"All agencies need to develop better ways of working together in the areas of health, education, welfare and justice to ensure the needs of young people are met."