Calls for actions as youth unemployment rate increases
A spike in the number of young people not working or training in the wider Manawatu region has led to calls for increased action on a national and local level to combat the issue.
The NEET rate – not in employment education or training – for 15 to 19-year-olds in Manawatu/ Whanganui increased from 7.7 per cent at the end of 2015 to 9.1 per cent at the end of 2016, Household Labour Force data shows.
Manawatu-based NZ First MP Darroch Ball, who called the increasing youth unemployment rates "one of the biggest problems society has", said more work was needed to address the problem.
Young people who left school and could not find employment could become disengaged from society and get caught in the benefit cycle, Ball said.
He said there was no excuse for young people to be on a benefit and not have access to support services.
"At the end of the day, it's costing them their futures."
While the NEET rate has increased in the past year, it and population sizes have fluctuated over the past five years. NEET rates reached 11 per cent in the last quarter of 2015 and 14.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2014.
Population size and youth unemployment population sizes also varied during the time period.
START manager Peter Butler said he had not seen an increase in the demand for NEET services in Palmerston North and the wider Manawatu.
START, a Palmerston North-based organisation that helps people under the age of 18 gain qualifications or education, still worked with about 5 per cent of the youth population, who were aged between 16 and 19.
But Butler said most young people in the area were happy, healthy, resilient and engaged in education and positive lifestyle activities.
Butler said the city was proactive in helping youth, but the need was constant. There were "still too many young people leaving their educational pathway with low or no formal qualifications", he said.
It was "extremely hard" for people aged 15-19 to find employment without a personal or family network to provide an employment opportunity, he said.
"This is not easy and can be an intimidating experience and demoralising for some young people."
Employment was vital for the well-being, self-esteem, confidence, financial security and the development independence for youth.
Ball said education systems and community members could also help young people on a local level.
"They haven't got any goals. No-one has sat down with them and discussed their goals and what they want to achieve in five years time."
Young people needed guidance and support, especially from schools, teachers, education systems and community members who could recognise issues early on, he said.
On a government level, resources needed to be given to youth services, mental health and employment services, he said.
Ball said he disagreed with extending the benefit, instead preferring alternative funding pathways for young people who did not fit into the formal education system.
Ball has a Youth Employment Training and Education Bill in the members ballot.
The bill would aim for funding to go towards a three-year military pathway, which would teach discipline, as well as youth numeracy, literacy, trades and skills – such as gaining a truck licence.
The total NEET rate from all regional councils also increased within the same time period, from 6.8 per cent to 9.8 per cent.