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Statistics New Zealand yesterday identified a problem the Government may need to solve if it wants to grow the local workforce without the need for immigrant labour.
One in eight young people aged 25 is neither learning nor earning, Statistics NZ said in a statement.
The figures come in the first year of the Government’s fees-free tertiary education policy which was to encourage people to either study or learn skills.
The seasonally-adjusted rate of young people aged 15-24 who were not in employment, education, or training (Neet) rose to 12.4% in the March quarter, up from 11.8% in December last year.
The Neet rate was 12.7% a year ago.
Statistics NZ labour market manager Sean Broughton said education and skills training for young adults were critical steps to help set them up for working life.
"The Neet rate is important because it shows decision-makers how many young people may be being left behind on the path to a better job and better life."
The latest data reflected in a fall in the Neet rate for women to 12.8%, partially offset by a rise for men to 12.1%, he said.
A year ago, the Neet rates for women were 13.8% and 11.8% respectively.
Since the series began in 2004, the proportion of young women not earning or learning had been higher than the rate for young men.
The gender gap had now almost disappeared. The Neet rates for women and men were the closest they had ever been, Mr Broughton said.
The Neet rate covered 15 to 24-year-olds but could be broken down to examine teenagers and people in their early 20s separately.
Since 2004, the Neet rate for women aged between 20 and 24 had been consistently higher than for men of the same age. The difference had diminished over time and was now at its lower point of 3.9 percentage points compared with a peak of 14.5 percentage points in March 2005.
There was little difference in the Neet rates for men and women aged between 15 and 19, he said.
In the last 10 years, the number of women aged 20 to 24 who were not in the labour force or education because of caregiving had fallen from 20,000 to 11,000.