Call for businesses to help unemployed youth

Last updated 05:00 11/05/2013

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New Zealand's labour force and social welfare statistics are still a problem and businesses should step in to help get young people into the workforce, the social development minister says.

Paula Bennett said businesses needed to help tackle the high youth unemployment rate by supporting schemes aimed at helping out-of-work 15- to 24-year-olds get jobs.

This was despite Thursday's better-than-expected unemployment rate of 6.2 per cent.

New Zealand had an ageing population, a skills shortage, a shrinking workforce and high youth unemployment, Ms Bennett said.

"We've got some real challenges ahead of us."

By 2030, more people would be retiring than entering the workforce, she said.

More than 300,000 working-age New Zealanders are on benefits, and 20 per cent of children are leaving schools without meeting literacy and numeracy requirements.

Despite the unemployment rate tumbling sharply to 6.2 per cent in the March quarter, 47,000 people are still on the unemployment benefit.

The ministry was tightening criteria for those claiming welfare, and from July 15 applicants would have to undergo a drug test when applying for the 40 per cent of Work and Income's listed jobs that required workers to be drug-free.

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