Young New Zealanders 'crowded out of job market' - Salvation Army
Rising immigration, educational inequality and a looming labour shortage are creating a haze for young New Zealanders, struggling to the lift the veil of unemployment.
They are the findings of a new Salvation Army report entitled 2016, What Next? which investigates youth unemployment using Statistics NZ figures.
A complex mix of social structures born out of the Global Financial Crisis, general population growth and the Government's "singular focus" on welfare reform were all affecting the prospects of young Kiwis, report writer Social Policy analyst Alan Johnson said.
An "explosion" of young immigrants aged 15 to 24 arriving in New Zealand, had seen a net gain of 3217 in the year to June 2013 rise to 22,064 in the same period this year.
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That was against a backdrop of a "persistent" 75,000 young New Zealanders who were not in employment, education or training (NEET).
They were "unemployed, unengaged and often with few, if any, marketable skills".
"The persistent numbers of 15 to 24-year-olds who remain outside of the workforce as total job numbers grow and as young migrants enter New Zealand to take these jobs suggest this immigration is crowding out more marginalised workers".
Evidence to support that was "mixed", the report found, "although such crowding out does appear to be occurring in some labour markets, such as Auckland and Bay of Plenty".
Managing immigration to ensure New Zealand had "sufficient skills and energy to grow without exacerbating congestion and housing shortages", needed to be made a priority.
"Over the past three years, we have seen record net migration that is not just the result of fewer New Zealanders leaving for Australia but also a deliberate policy of allowing more people to migrate here.
"Just one-third of these have a job arranged before they arrive and there is little evidence that Immigration New Zealand is checking if the labour market is short of the skills these migrants bring," the report said.
And an aging population that saw more than 900 people reach retirement age each week, was fuelling a looming labour shortage.
The report was positive toward the Government's investment approach, which had driven major welfare reforms put in place in 2012.
Shifting Government priorities since then, had emphasised a reduction in long-term benefit dependency which placed effort and resources into at-risk youth as they left school.
"This investment approach is fine," the report found, "although there is no evidence of any new money, simply a shift in priorities that has meant virtually no second-chance training opportunities for over 20s and a sharp reduction in the number of poorer tertiary students receiving financial support from the State".
The Government's "almost singular welfare reform focus" on reducing benefit dependency meant the underlying causes of dependency had been "largely ignored".
Educational inequality was major driver of that, the army has argued.
In 2011, 13.7 per cent of students attending a decile 1 secondary school left school with University Entrance, compared with 70.9 per cent for decile 10 schools - a gap of just over 57 per cent.
By 2015, those rates had shifted, falling slight to 12.9 per cent for decile one students, and rising slightly for decile 10 students to 72.3 per cent.
That left a gap of more than 59 per cent.
"In proportional terms and when comparing differences between the bottom three and top three deciles, the overall inequality gap has not widened but stayed much the same since 2009," the report said.
"In 2011, students from deciles 8 to 10 schools succeeded in University Entrance at 3.5 times the rate of those from deciles 1 to 3 schools. By 2015, this ratio had narrowed slightly to 3.4 times."
The report took a swing a comments made by Prime Minister John Key, in response to questions over immigration given 200,000 New Zealanders were unemployed.
He said employers were often reporting that some New Zealanders looking for labouring or orchard in particular "won't pass a drug test, some of these people won't turn up for work, some of these people will claim they have health issues later on".
The Salvation Army said Key's "framing" was clear.
"That some New Zealand workers are hopeless, semi-literate or illiterate and drug addled - and because they are, the jobs they could have done instead have to be filled by migrants."
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said the report was "overly pessimistic and contains significant inaccuracies and misconceptions".
"Currently the percentage of 15-19 year olds not in employment, education and training (NEET) is almost the lowest level since records began in 2004.
"Meanwhile the percentage of 15-24 year olds that are NEET is the lowest since the September quarter of 2008."
He also disputed the suggestion young Kiwis were being crowded out of the labour market.
There had been 323000 jobs created since the peak of the global financial crisis in 2009.
"Most youth migration that the Salvation Army refers to is young people on working holidays and international students. Nearly all on working holidays leave again after a year, while 76% of students leave again after their studies. "
The Government was already addressing recommendations in the report including boosting achievement of Maori and Pasifika students; strengthening links between education and employment; more apprenticeships and its recent changes to immigration in relation to skilled migrants.