Investing In Young People

Earlier this year Deputy Prime Minister Bill English came to the Manawatu and said that “a lot of the Kiwis that are meant to be available [for work] are pretty damned hopeless.”

Presumably the young people Mr English was referring to are amongst the 74,000 who are neither employed nor in any form of education or training. That there are so many young people in New Zealand wasting away with absolutely nothing to do and that the number is virtually the same as it was at the height of the Global Financial Crisis is a black mark against our Government and our nation.

As always, we have choices about how we respond. There’s the Bill English approach – to dismiss those youngsters as pretty damned hopeless, lay all of the blame at their feet, and wash our hands of the problem. Another option is to say ‘Yes, this is a crisis. It’s difficult to solve but New Zealand is strong and caring enough to rise to the challenge of investing in these young people to give them hope for a fulfilling and prosperous future.’

That’s the more difficult choice but it is the right one. It is the choice that Andrew Little announced last weekend with the launch of Labour’s Ready to Work policy.

Labour in Government will fund 10,000 jobs for young people on the Job Seeker allowance. The jobs will last up to 6 months and will pay minimum wage. They will give young people the opportunity to learn the basic skills they need to be work ready – showing up on time, being presentable and completing tasks diligently. The programme will cost $60 million a year but will save New Zealand far more in the long run.

The choice is in our hands. We can carry on neglecting young people or we can start to invest in them. Let’s make the right choice.