Youth unemployment 'no surprise'

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 14:35 18/02/2013

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More young people are claiming the unemployment benefit in every region of the country than when National took power in 2008, according to figures collated by the Labour Party.

But Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said that was no surprise given the global recession.

The biggest increases were in Nelson-Marlborough-West Coast, Taranaki-Whanganui-King Country, East Coast, Bay of Plenty and Northland – all up more than 100 per cent between December 2008 and last December.

And the number of people aged 18-24 claiming the unemployment benefit was up in every region, the figures show.

Bennett said that in the last two and a half years youth unemployment fell from a peak of 23,545 in January 2010 to 16,815 this January.

That was thanks to the Government's focus including subsidised job-placements, work and training programmes, and the new apprenticeship reboot, she said.

"It will be no surprise to New Zealanders that due to the global recession, youth unemployment rose," Bennett said.

"The global recession hit employment and youth employment badly around the entire world and New Zealand is not immune, but we are doing comparatively better than many other countries thanks to our focused approach."

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern said the figures proved young people were being failed.

There were now 90,000 young people nationwide not in employment, training or education (NEET).

"That is Greece just waiting to happen," she said.

"It's time we were much more hands-on with this issue."

National had said youth unemployment was a main priority but both the youth unemployment and NEET rates were higher than when they took office, she said.

"We need to pick kids up at the school gate, not at the work and income door," Ardern said.

"Every young person should have a plan when they leave school."

Instead the Government was restricting youth transition services, which offered support to young people looking for training or employment – a select group of 16 and 17-year-olds, Ardern said.

"Kids who need help are now missing out, and the numbers show that," she said.

"The fact is, National are doing far too little, for far too few. As long as that continues, we will see figures like this."

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