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    PM thanks mayors for efforts on youth jobs

    23 April 2004

    By ROCHELLE WEST

    The Mayors Taskforce for Jobs has been thanked by Prime Minister Helen Clark for doing something of "fundamental importance" to New Zealand.
    In closing the two-day Mayors Taskforce for Jobs forum at the New Plymouth District Council yesterday, Miss Clark said if there was ever a time to target unemployment it was now.

    "Employers are screaming out for labour.

    "The last survey that was done on employers finding difficulty getting labour, a net 50% said they were having trouble getting skilled labour. Even more significant to me, a net 27% said they were having trouble getting unskilled labour."

    "That tells me we can make further inroads on unemployment."

    Miss Clark said, however, that getting long-term unemployed into work would not be easy. It was difficult to get people in jobs when some had been in a cycle of generational unemployment.

    "In some of our regions and cities, there is a lot of rebuilding and rehabilitation to do."

    Miss Clark, therefore, congratulated the mayoral taskforce for targeting youth getting them into training and employment before bad habits developed.

    "Even in this environment with nationwide unemployment at 4.6%, we are still seeing the 15 to 19 year olds with 10 to 15%."

    The goal for the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs is to get all people under the age of 25 into work or training.

    Miss Clark believed that goal was achievable.

    "I think the key now to making further in-roads in unemployment is to target the groups that are over-represented in the statistics."

    She cited Maori, Pacific island and ethnic minorities, and pointed out that one employment strategy would not fix all problems different strategies had to be targeted for different groups.

    Miss Clark gave a hint that low and moderate income families and child care would be focused on in this year's Budget. Incentives would be given to some people with children, giving them a chance to work, she said.

    "We will not get the high levels of participation of women in our labour market without doing better on child care."

    While Miss Clark could not guarantee that all young people would be in work something the taskforce wanted she said there was a commitment to achieve that employment goal.

    "I think what you are hearing is a commitment and a real sense that we can achieve these goals not by standing back and doing nothing, but working together, as you are doing with the government agencies in your areas."

    Earlier, the 110 people at the conference split into groups to brainstorm ways to reduce youth unemployment.

    Some of the ideas included the need for different job agencies to share information and work together to avoid duplication, to work more closely with youth, and create a tracking system to support school leavers.

    One thing that was seen as important, was the need to have the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs philosophy embedded in the culture of councils throughout the country. The drive to cut youth unemployment should be part of councils' long-term strategies and not just a strategy pushed by mayors, was the thought.

    The taskforce, which was formed in 2000 and started out as a core group of 12 elected leaders, now boasts 80% of the nation's mayors.