24 May 2024

Increase in youth not in jobs, training or education worrying trend - Salvation Army

10:47 pm on 24 May 2024
45247047 - sad teenager near the brick wall of the old house

Photo: sabphoto/123RF

There are now 82,000 young New Zealanders who are not in education, employment or training with the unemployment rate set to further increase.

Those aged 15 to 24 years currently have an unemployment rate of 12.4 percent, compared to the national rate of 4.3 percent.

The national unemployment rate is the highest it has been since mid-2021 and is forecast to further increase beyond 5 percent by next year.

Those who are not in education, employment or training are in a category known as NEET.

Salvation Army Social policy analyst Paul Barber told Checkpoint the impacts of rising unemployment levels were felt unequally and young people were the most affected.

"We've seen that over the past year as unemployment's been rising the number of young people who are NEETS, not in employment or education, is up to 82,000 now."

That was an increase of 12,000 on last year and proportionately a much bigger increase in unemployment than for other age groups, he said.

Young people were often at the start of their working lives and sometimes with few qualifications at a transitional time in their lives, he said.

The group of people who were in the NEET category were those that we should be most concerned about, he said.

"They're not connected to schooling or to further training or to higher education, they've not been able to find employment, they're not in employment-related workplace training like apprenticeships."

Young people were often the last ones to be employed and the first ones to be let go in tough economic times and that was what was happening now, he said.

Covid caused a labour shortage because the borders were closed, he said.

"We had a period of very low unemployment when the borders were closed and there was a labour shortage and young people in this age category were finding employment to a higher degree."

During that time the NEET rate dropped to its lowest level in about 15 years, he said - but that had now ended with high migration levels and a tight labour market.

And although Covid had a positive effect on youth unemployment rates, it had a negative impact in other areas, he said.

"Those who work with young people talk about how really the Covid time has a deep impact on young people's connection to school, their sense of confidence even to be in school and even that sort of self worth and loss of belief in themselves."

That has been seen in a sharp increase in mental health issues and levels of psychological distress among young people, he said.

There was no magic bullet for fixing the situation.

"The Salvation Army itself is involved in quite a bit of work with young people through youth mentoring, youth development work, parenting programmes.

"But we need to be working with the educators, the schools, the tertiary training institutions, the workforce trainers, we need the employers, we need the whānau and familes to all be part of the solution."

Employers and trainers also needed to be prepared to work with people who might be really struggling to engage with the challenges of further learning and further training, he said. Even having one or two connections could be the difference between a young person succeeding or things getting worse for them.

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