Saturday, January 28, 2017

On the table

The photo above is of a tabletop in the foodcourt at Glenfield Mall, here on Auckland’s North Shore. All the tables have ads for one thing or another—shops, products, cellphone companies, fast food, and this one (among others). It’s seen by a captive audience, but it offers something useful, and I think it’s a really good thing.

The ad is from the Kaipātiki Community Facilities Trust (KCFT) promoting Youth Hub, “a free online platform to empower young people and to bridge the gap between education and employment”. It’s supported by KCFT as part of their Jobs4Youth programme, part of what KCFT does to help the community grow and do well.

Youth unemployment is a problem in many countries, including New Zealand. According to Statistics New Zealand, the country’s overall unemployment rate in the September Quarter, the most recent available, was 4.9%. But in the same quarter, the unemployment rate for 15-19 year olds was 19.7%. Now, one might correctly point out that most of that age group would be in school, but for 20-24 year olds, it was 9.2%—more than double the national rate. Most of them would not be in study. And, for those 25-29 the unemployment rate was still 6.2%. Clearly there is much work to do.

Ethnicity is a factor, too, as it is in most developed countries: The overall unemployment rate for people of European ancestry was 3.6%, while for Māori it was 10.6% and for Pacific Peoples it was 10.1%. Māori and Pacific youth similarly have higher unemployment rates than European youth do.

There are a lot of reasons for this, including New Zealand’s slow recovery form the Global Financial Crisis and also a government led by the right of centre National Party that doesn’t worry about workers’ needs and led by a Prime Minister who as Finance Minister said some years ago that low wages in New Zealand was “a way of competing”. Against that mindset, it seems unlikely that much of anything can improve without a change of government later this year.

But is there anything to be done, regardless? Yes: Community and charitable organisations and local government are working to fill the void left by an inattentive central government. This is a very good thing, though without a broader national strategy involving education, healthcare, and the business sector, it’s unlikely there can be any nationwide improvement.

Meanwhile, here in Kaipātiki, at least, there's a greater attention to the needs of youth than is found in other parts of Auckland, and Auckland is more focused on the issues than many other areas of the country. It’s a good start—which is exactly what our youth really need.

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