Businesses, training organisations and young job seekers from the east are backing a policy that could see employers pay teenagers 80 per cent of minimum wage.
The proposal means young people could be paid $10.80 an hour from April 1. The move could affect up to 40,000 teenagers nationwide.
A Community Action Research survey undertaken in Tamaki shows youth unemployment is one of the major issues that respondents in the 600 households are concerned about.
Glen Innes Business Association manager Gary Holmes says the "starting wage" could be a catalyst for positive change in the area because it means businesses might be able to afford to take young people on.
"It enables some of our businesses to take on young people and gives them a bit of money, some work experience and most importantly a skill set to be able to use in the future. I think that's a positive thing.
"There are a lot of young people in the area who want to get into the workforce but they might not have the experience or skills to find a job.
"If the policy does come in, Glen Innes Business Association wants to work with local training institutes and Work and Income New Zealand to make those matches between businesses and young people willing to work."
Kaitlin Tuaana, 16, and her boyfriend Richard McLutchie, 18, live at home in Orakei and are both unemployed.
Kaitlin dropped out of school to care for her mother, who died this year. She's doing a computer course in Grafton and her main goal is to get industry experience.
"It's hard looking for work because we've got no experience. It's the same for everyone, there's heaps of people going for the same job so who would they choose, someone who's qualified or not? I want to work and I'd definitely take the $10.80 an hour to get started. It's better than nothing and it's more than what you'd get on the benefit."
Richard finished school last year and says he's been turned away from more than 20 jobs so far.
"I'll do anything, as long as it's a job and they're paying me. There's not much out there in this area but money is money even if it's not what you want to be doing. They all say the same thing, we'll keep your CV but you already know they'll never consider me for work because I've got no experience."
MSL Training used to offer free courses for youth aged between 15 and 18, but closed its Glen Innes campus three years ago to move closer to potential job opportunities for its graduates.
Director Dougal Marks says there were a number of extra challenges for young people in the area.
"We had a lot of trouble connecting young people with employers in Glen Innes. A majority of students had trouble finding work because there was a lack of job opportunities in the town centres, particularly in Panmure, Glen Innes and Mt Wellington.
"Transport was always one of the main issues. Students didn't have transport and public transport to the area was no good which meant shift work was always a problem. The same could be said for other parts of Auckland too.
"Paying students at that lower rate is a great idea to get them into the workforce. I can see how it might benefit businesses. I agree that setting a starting wage would help in the short term but I don't think it would make much difference in the long term . . . There is the added risk that there will be people who exploit it just as they did the 90-day trial period."
Service and Food Workers Union national secretary John Ryall disagrees and says it is time for policies and action to lift low pay.
"Statistics New Zealand figures showing near-record low increases in hourly rates will be no surprise to the country's lowest earners. They are a growing group of working poor and they just got poorer."
- East And Bays Courier
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