Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan's announcement last week that
there would be no youth unemployment in the district by
year-end is a bold but brilliant move should it become a
In September, Work and Income New Zealand estimated there
were 85 people under the age of 24 unemployed in the
district. While that number was expected to reduce as
seasonal work became available, the mayor claimed all the
unemployed youth doing a new training course in the district
wanted jobs - and would get them - as they would be
attractive prospects for employers.
The month-long Ready, Steady, Work course is funded by the
Ministry of Social Development and is a joint approach
between the Mayors' Taskforce for Jobs and more than a dozen
of Clutha's major employers, who will offer mentorship and
jobs in factories, forestry, agriculture and other sectors.
The course began on November 5 and, by December 6, Mr Cadogan
is confident all those completing it will be offered a job.
While the results remain to be seen, the mayor and the
employers should be commended for taking such a proactive
approach to the issue of youth unemployment.
Earlier this month, the latest quarterly figures from
Statistics New Zealand showed overall unemployment rose to an
annual rate of 7.3% in September, up from 6.8% in June,
putting the total number of unemployed (175,000 people) the
highest in 13 years. It was the third consecutive quarter in
which the number of unemployed had risen.
The overall seasonally adjusted youth (aged 15 to 24) Neet
(not in employment, education, or training) rate increased
slightly to 13.4%. The female youth Neet rate increased
slightly to 15.8%, and the Neet rate for young men increased
slightly to 11%. The increases were not considered to be
statistically significant as since the December 2011 quarter
the youth Neet rate has hovered between 13.1% and 13.5%.
While the Government has attempted to address employment
issues - and policies such as its Job Ops scheme, youth rates
to encourage employers to take on young workers and increased
funding for skills training may go some way towards helping
youngsters find jobs - the policies have also been criticised
as being unworkable or not going far enough.
The effects of unemployment are far-reaching. Unemployment at
the beginning of someone's working life, when a young person
is beginning to make their own way in the world, can set up
patterns of behaviour that are hard to break, contribute to
low self-esteem, isolation and mental health issues, can lead
to drug and alcohol abuse, which in turn can lead to crime.
Long term, unemployment has a cost for the unemployed and
society through increased welfare dependency and poverty and
For youth, the problems are exacerbated as they grow older
and compete in a highly competitive and tight job market
perhaps without any qualifications, work history or
references from employers.
The social unrest caused by spiralling youth unemployment has
been illustrated in rallies in various European capitals
recently, as recent data shows youth unemployment in the
likes of Greece and Spain has reached 58% and 54.2%
The Clutha programme is therefore also praiseworthy because
it recognises the complex and trickle-down effects of youth
unemployment, targets the issue at a local level and provides
a holistic, supportive approach.
The course incorporates a fitness and healthy eating
programme, includes mentoring, and youths must pass a drugs
test to be eligible for employment.
As Mr Cadogan said: "These are good kids who, through no
fault of their own, have found themselves in a situation they
don't deserve, brought on by a worldwide recession." The
outcome of the course and Mr Cadogan's prophecy will be
And whatever the results, the district's youth should count
themselves lucky they have such passionate, committed and
supportive community leaders working to ensure they are
equipped to start making their way in the world.