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Labour's Youth Employment Package: Backgrounder

Youth Employment Package: Backgrounder

Labour will ensure everyone under 20 is either earning or learning

Young New Zealanders are carrying the weight of the downturn. Youth account for 43% of our total unemployment, a higher share than in any other OECD country[1]. In fact 58,000 15 to 24 year olds are not in work, school or training[2]. That’s enough to fill Eden Park. The total is 18,000 higher than it was 3 years ago.

There are simply not enough jobs or training opportunities. We know the time between high school and their first job is critical. It’s the time during which they make decisions about their careers that can determine their pathway in life. We know that without access to a job or the right training, this group is the most vulnerable to long-term unemployment.

Currently, almost 24,000 under 20 year olds are not in employment, education or training. These young New Zealanders are most at risk. They have little to no experience or qualifications, they’re no longer in school or training and don’t have a job. Action must be taken to ensure jobs, training and the right support are available.

This is an issue for all New Zealanders. The Human Rights Commissioner warned that without urgent action the situation will become “unsustainable, representing a threat to social cohesion”[3]. If we lose these young people now, we lose thousands of New Zealanders who could become productive members of the community. Our businesses lose the skilled workers they need to grow. Acting now helps meet the need for skilled workers in the future. Investing up front will also save money further on down the track. The NZ Institute estimates that youth unemployment currently costs the tax payer $900 million each year.[4]

Acting now also recognises that we compete in a global economy. Our young people have to be able to compete against workers from the other side of the world. Labour’s policy will provide a pathway from the school gate to their first job. It will ensure that young New Zealanders have the skills and training required to compete in a 21st century workforce.

The problem won’t be solved through short-term quick fix programmes. Make-work-schemes like Community Max didn’t work. National’s boot camps haven’t worked either with 90% per cent reoffending. It is not enough to say you back New Zealanders, you need to show it.

There’s no silver bullet to youth unemployment. It’s a crisis that demands new and innovative solutions. Labour will act to ensure the future for these young New Zealanders is open with opportunities. Labour’s policy will deal with the urgent problem of youth unemployment as well as tackling the long-term issue of up-skilling our workforce. Labour is committed to ensuring that every at-risk 15-19 year old will be either learning or earning by the end of our first term. We estimate that 24,000 young people will be assisted by this package.


1 Source: NZ Institute, Discussion Paper, More ladders and fewer snakes: Two proposals to reduce youth disadvantage, July 2011, p 15.
2 Stats NZ, HLFS, NEET statistics (not in employment, education or training).
3 Source: Human Rights Commission, Tracking Equality at Work, June 2011, p 27
4 Source: NZ Institute, Discussion Paper, More ladders and fewer snakes: Two proposals to reduce youth disadvantage, July 2011, p 5


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