Wednesday April 16, 2003
Official youth unemployment rate is 10 per cent, twice the national average of 5 per cent.
Wanted, work for our young and keen
14.04.2003 - By KEVIN TAYLOR
The Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall is urging every business to consider hiring at least one young person in order to help eliminate the scourge of youth unemployment.
The Business Council for Sustainable Development, which Tindall chairs, has launched a guide to youth employment aimed at the business sector.
The product of a partnership between the council and the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, it sets the goal of having all young people in employment or training by 2005.
The unemployment rate for 15-to-25-year-olds is 10 per cent - twice the national average rate of 5 per cent - which Tindall describes as a huge social and economic waste.
The guide says a conservative estimate of the net effect of getting youth off the dole and into work is a benefit of $400 million to the country.
In addition, the educational investment already put into young people is wasted, and unemployed youth do not contribute to society through taxation. Youth unemployment is also a breeding ground for crime.
The guide argues that young people are the "drivers of new ideas" and older employees rejuvenate and strengthen their performance in the company of younger staff.
Youth are also the future markets of the country's businesses.
The guide cites several case studies from participants in the Business Council's "youth employment project".
One is a scheme run by local authority and infrastructure contractor City Care, which has developed a system to ease young people into trades training supported by Work and Income NZ.
Started in October, it involved getting a Winz subsidy to take on 20 young long-term unemployed and offered them training in trades and life skills like teamwork, communication, time management, first aid and remedial literacy and numeracy.
Tindall says the scheme is a good example of actions business can take.
The Warehouse tried to give young unemployed people a go.
"We do it all the time anyway. We get the Winz people bringing unemployed people to us. Trying to put together a positive approach, we would give these guys a shot."
About 60 per cent work out, he says.
Tindall says smaller employers can also do something - simply by giving a young person a job.
Larger businesses could look at employing larger numbers in special schemes, and approaching Government agencies for help.
He does not see the dole as a disincentive for young people finding work.
He says he has found they want to work, and see the dole as a temporary way of tiding them over until their next job.
"They are also finding they'd much rather work than do nothing.
"There are people that freeload, but they are very much in the minority."
He does not accept the argument of business groups that claim minimum youth rates are a disincentive to hiring. He says the research recruitment agency TMP did for the guide showed that was a fallacy.
Another council member, dairy giant Fonterra, is developing a strategy to tackle community and farming attitudes to kill the idea farming is "a bit daggy".
A Fonterra survey of farmers showed ignorance of farming and insensitivity to the needs of young people by farmers were the "twin enemies" of rural youth employment.
Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says the aim to get all young unemployed in training or work by 2005 is ambitious but the push to hire more young workers is welcome.
Asked why the youth unemployment rate was twice the overall rate, Maharey said employers had "lost the habit" of hiring young people.
He said that many believed that hiring older people, who might not need the same level of training, offered a more rapid return.
But he said that was unsustainable, not only for young people but for those businesses which had found the youthful part of their workforce had disappeared.
"We have really got to get employers re-engaged with the notion that you can't run an industry if you kill off your younger workforce."
* Official youth unemployment rate is 10 per cent, twice the national average of 5 per cent.
* Youth unemployment accounts for 42 per cent of total unemployment.
* The youth minimum wage (16 and 17-year-olds) is $6.80 an hour. The adult minimum is $8.50 an hour.
* Unemployment benefit for 18-19- year-olds away from home, and single 20-24-year-olds, is $134.70 net a week.
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