For the first time ever I wholeheartedly agree with Fran O’Sullivan’s column. In today’s Herald she writes about the government’s inaction over youth unemployment and what it will mean in terms of a lost generation.
The percentage of young people who can’t find jobs snowballed after the global economic crisis hit New Zealand.
But (so far) the Government has only budgeted enough funds to provide “opportunities” for 16,900.
This is not going to make a large dent when 62,700 young Kiwis between 15 and 24 are already out of work. The number is set to swell when more school leavers and tertiary graduates hit the job markets this summer.
New Zealand has been down this track before in the early 1990s.
It was not a pretty sight. Young men who couldn’t find work lost hope. There was an explosion of youth suicide. Many ultimately left for new opportunities offshore.
I’d add to that the fact that meaningful work also provides a connection to civil society. Longterm unemployment can damage people’s ability to function as adults and to partake in democracy and their communities in the market economy we’re currently stuck with.
Like Fran I watched this happen in the 90’s and I think we are still paying the price in terms of skills shortages, low home-ownership and a generation that carries an unhealthy cynicism that, while understandable, has led to a disengagement with civil society that can only be bad for democracy.
I never thought I say this but I recommend reading Fran’s piece and having a real hard think about what she’s saying.