Young people battered by diminishing employment opportunities

young people

New Zealand’s young people are facing diminishing employment opportunities.

Data shows the only statistics growing regarding youth employment, training and education are those recording their unemployment and disengagement from learning.

Unrewarding start

In the year to March 2024, Radio NZ says 12.4 percent of 15 to 24-year olds were not in employment, education or training (NEET). Of these, 14.2 percent were female.

These data indicate a marked increase from those reported at the end of March 2023. At that time, 10.9 percent of young people were in the NEET group; of those, 11.5 percent were young women.

For those aged 20 to 24, the rate was significantly higher this year than last. Over 18 percent of women in this age bracket were in the NEET group, up 27 percent year-on-year.

A Wellington mother whose now 21-year-old has lived on the benefit for the past three years wants more for him.

“Ultimately I really want them to get into something engaging and enriching. I want them to have a pathway to independence, to going flatting” she says.

Other parents share her aims.

Regional variation

The worst place to be if you’re a young NEET is Northland.

It had the highest NEET rate at the end of March this year at 16.3 percent of people aged 15 to 24. The Bay of Plenty is next in line at 16.2 percent says Craig Renney, Council of Trade Unions policy director and economist.

Renney is concerned.

He says that young people in this situation are facing a potential “huge challenge” throughout their lives. Wage and employment scarring can happen when their labour market prospects deteriorate as a direct result of an initial spell of unemployment

“The longer they spend NEET, the worse the labour market outcomes tend to be for those people.”

Renney says it’s possible that young women’s unemployment is a reflection of what’s happening in the industries they had typically been employed in.

“We know construction is struggling, manufacturing is struggling but perhaps not as much as high street retail. Perhaps not as much as the more female-dominated industries.”

Apprenticeships are often shed during downturns, Renney observes.

“Then when the upswing comes as inevitably as the downswing, and we suddenly need apprentices, we don’t have any.”

What to do

Helping NEET young people to stay in New Zealand and use or develop their skills here is important Renney says.

“Do they [the ones with skills] stay in-country? If they’ve got skills and not in education, employment or training they might say ‘stuff this I’m going to Oz’ and they don’t come back. That’s a permanent loss on that side.

“The longer you’re out of employment the harder it is to get back in, that’s why interventions at that point in life are so vital.”


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News category: New Zealand.

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