Quarter of Wellington's young people unemployed

GEORGE DRIVER
Last updated 14:37 30/05/2013
Homelessness
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
Mike Leon: There are more young people needing emergency accommodation.
Bennett
PAULA BENNETT: Training is the answer
Jacinda Ardern
Olivia Hemus
JACINDA ARDERN: Jobs should be the priority.
Kirsten Smith
AMY JACKMAN
Kirsten Smith: More youth living it rough.

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With youth unemployment remaining high, Wellington's social agencies are reporting large numbers of young people seeking help.

Statistics New Zealand's Household Labour Force Survey shows that between January and March this year 25 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds in the region were unemployed. 

For same period last year, 23.4 per cent of 15-to 19-year-olds were unemployed.

During the past year, the period of highest unemployment for the same age group was October 2012 to December 13, which coincided with the end of the school and university years.

Thirty per cent of 15 to 19-year-olds were out of work during that time. 

Wellington Soup Kitchen, Wellington Night Shelter and Evolve Youth Service all said there had been a big increase in demand from younger people over the past year.

Soup Kitchen community engagement adviser Nikki Jones said a large increase in younger people at the Soup Kitchen suggested more youth could be living it rough.

"We've seen many more young men than usual at the Soup Kitchen in the last three months - lots of new faces," she said.

"It seems to be a common theme that they've come to Wellington to see if they can make a go of it in the city, and are finding it tough.

"We are seeing groups of young Maori men, in particular, who seem to be struggling to find a positive direction in Wellington.

"Many are keen to find appropriate work, and when it's not available they are quickly running out of money or falling in with a rough crowd."

Evolve Youth Service, which provides health services for under 24-year-olds, said it had about 1000 more enrolments than the previous year.

Manager Kirsten Smith said the present high level of youth unemployment was a huge factor in that rise.

"People really underestimate the impact the economy has on young people . . . depression, anxiety and stress, and an absolute lack of self-worth are constantly recurring themes heard by our counsellors," she said.

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"The biggest thing we hear is, 'I just want a job'."

Government training initiatives had not helped the situation because there were simply not the jobs available, she said.

"The Government encourages young people off the benefit and into courses that lead nowhere. Many come out of a course and can't find a job for two years . . . when you think of the consequences of that, they are pretty disabling."

Wellington Night Shelter Manager Mike Leon also reported a marked increase in younger people needing emergency and transitional accommodation.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the most effective way to assist youth with limited education into employment was training.

"Many young people receiving a benefit have not completed high school and need help with literacy, numeracy, achieving NCEA and/or acquiring skills that will make them attractive to employers," Ms Bennett said.

Unemployment in Wellington for people aged 18- to 24-year-olds had decreased by nearly 150 people in the past year, to 1347 in April 2013, she said. 

The Household Labour Force Survey shows the unemployment figures for 18- to 24-years for the January to March quarter was 10.9 per cent, down from 12.4 per cent in the pervious quarter, but the same as the 2012  Janauary to March quarter. 

Labour social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said the government needed to focus on job creation, rather than tightening benefit eligibility.

"While the government has focused heavily on putting changes in place in the welfare system, our argument has always been that if you want to bring down those figures, focus on jobs," Ms Ardern said.

BY THE NUMBERS:

  • Unemployment for 15 to 19-year-olds: 25 per cent.
  • Not in employment, education or training (NEET), 15 to 19-year-olds: 8.8 per cent.
  • NEET, 20 to 24-year-olds: 15.9 per cent.
  • Maori NEET, 15 to 24-year- olds: 22.8 per cent.
  • NZ European NEET, 15 to 24-year-olds: 11.3 per cent.

Source: Household Labour Survey, Jan-Mar 2013, Statistics NZ

- The Wellingtonian

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