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Losing a generation

Written By: - Date published: 12:19 pm, August 20th, 2012 - 59 comments
Categories: jobs, unemployment - Tags:

There are just short of 630,000 people aged 20-29. A net 33,000 of them have left for Australia under National – 13,000 in the last year. That’s twice the rate of emigration under Labour. There’s also twice as many unemployed in this age group – 46,000 (a further 200,000 aren’t in the work-force so can’t count as officially unemployed).

That’s 1 in 8 of our youngest generation of workers either leaving for Aussie or unemployed under National.

The number of 18-24 year olds on the dole is up 300% in the past four years at a cost to the taxpayer fo $150m a year.

The effects of long-term unemployment early in a person’s career and life are well-understood. Yet, nothing substantive has been done. Just a few ‘boot-camps’ that don’t work for the few people they do take on and are really propaganda tools to shift the blame for joblessness on to the young people.

At the same time, the Government is importing hundreds of workers for semi-skilled jobs in the Christchurch rebuild and allowed hundreds of hospitality businesses to import workers for the World Cup. These needs were totally predictable and any sensible government would have invested in skill-matching long ahead of time, giving our young people skills and jobs, rather than doing nothing and then looking overseas for workers at the last minute.

But they didn’t.

And every month, more and more of our young people will go to Australia, rather than face unemployment or low wages here.

59 comments on “Losing a generation ”

  1. J. Andals 1

    I am one of these people. I have only got NCEA Level 2, and have failed more than half the papers for the two Polytechnic courses I attempted. Now unless I pay, I can’t attend tertiary education. I can’t get a job because I don’t have tertiary education.
    It’s been two strikes, and now I’m out. Where do I go from here?

    • blue leopard 1.1


      Yes, when you’re in the situation you are in and start realising that our successive Governments are happier to pay a person a welfare benefit than support them to further their education it begs the question as to whether any of our politicians are realising these odd consequences of the policies that they are creating.

      • blue leopard 1.1.1

        @ J Andels

        p.s have you looked at apprenticeships? Keep hassling your case manager, let them know you want to get into something. Ensure they are in no doubt about this. If your interests are in further training you are better off taking a loan out and continuing than not doing so. I am very much aware that going into debt before earning anything of substance is not an easy choice to make, however, take a look at the alternatives; a warning to you-the longer you stay unemployed the more unmotivated you are likely to become. Good luck!

        • Rick Rowling

          J Andels – where to from here? Keep doing something! Attitude and evidence of get-up-and-go are worth as much to a lot of employers as particular skills.

          Can you talk to your local school about ways to get some NCEA level 3?

          Even if there’s nothing paid out there, if you can show that you’ve been doing voluntary work, or some sort of training, it’s going to make you look a lot more attractive when you do get an interview.

    • Carol 1.2

      Sorry to hear about your situation, J.Andals. I have no answers for you about what to do next.

      It’s wrong that there aren’t enough jobs for young people (and others) that pay a living wage. And if the jobs aren’t available, there should be a reasonable amount of benefit available, courses to do, and guidance available to help you choose the course you’re best suited for.

    • Carol 1.3

      or, if you are into protesting, you could write your question on a card and stand outside the office of your nearest National, ACT, UF or Maori Party MP, for a reasonable amount of time every day.

    • NickS 1.4

      There used to be apprenticeships left right and centre, but they’ve been eroded in favour of polytech courses and not exactly straightforward to get.

    • mike e 1.5

      Jandals join some voluntary organizations for now ,their is NZ open polytech.
      Build networks through volunteering that will help increase your chances of being employed.
      Try finding online work.
      Its tough out their right now.
      Good luck.

      • Bored 1.5.1

        Nice prescription and good advice Mike, you have to do what it takes.

        And that, being how it, shouts loudly the saddest commentary upon the malaise afflicting employment chances in this country:

    • infused 1.6

      lol, maybe don’t fail the papers next time?

  2. RedLogix 2

    And at the other end of the scale if you are over 50 try getting a job interview. Increasingly we are being told that retirement age has to be increased to 67 or even 70 … so that’s another 17-20 years (or almost 40% of your working life) … and you are essentially unemployable solely because of your age.

    Go figure.

  3. Dr Terry 3

    The country certainly cannot afford to lose a generation. But Key is happy to see them all go, for him it amounts to “problem solving”. History will one day have a terrible story to tell.

    • Georgecom 3.1

      I’m not sure I agree that “Key is happy to see them all go”.

      ‘Relaxed’ perhaps, but not ‘happy’.

      • Jackal 3.1.1

        The country effectively lost a generation in the 90’s as well after the Labour government stupidly went back on its values and implemented many of the repressive measures Roger Douglas’ 1987 budget proposed.

        The current National government has in fact just been following many of the ideas outlined in Douglas’ neoliberal plan, which is now proven to be a complete economic and social disaster for New Zealand. David Lange was right to finally oppose it, but wrong to resign because the conflict within Labour grew untenable.

        “But with Roger his resolution, and his particular absolutely relentless pursuit of what he conceived to be an agenda worth pursuing, overrode all considerations of loyalty and in the end all manifestations of friendship”.

        David Lange said at the time.

        Most people won’t recall Roger Douglas saying it was OK to lose a generation, but I do. I recall the arrogance and little smirk he said it with and resolved myself then to oppose such reprehensible politicians and their destructive policies. The demise of Act is one I will savour.

        I think there’s many similarities between Douglas and Key, mainly because they both simply don’t care about the misery they cause.

        • Bored

          Your comment illustrates the extreme failure of the Clark government: not only were these policies not rejected and replaced with a sane and humane approach, but the bedfellows of this approach litter the opposition benches still. Plus their bastard children. As does the thinking, the reliance upon spin (aka lies) from paid self important “professionals”.

          I am still unconvinced of any real difference between the machinery, methodology and thinking of Labour and National. Soft velvet encased hammer versus naked hammer, both nail our childrens futures to a failed economic model.

  4. vto 4

    If you’re under 25 or over 45 you’re fucked.

    There aint enough work to occupy everyne anyway so why bother trying. On top of that, there is more than enough wealth in the country to provide each and every person a decent living environment. The answer should be relatively easy.

    The solution is clearly a re-modelling of the wealth distribtion system to satisfy the above. Perhaps start that process with a universal living allowance payable to each living resident.

    Gotta do something as the current situation is just steadily deteriorating into sludge. How on earth can we keep making more and more innovative products for other people to buy to put in their houses? The logic just isn’t there. And if it don’t change we will end up with 25% unemployment as in parts of europe and north america. And then we will have real trouble on our hands – the devil makes for idle hands and all that.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      There aint enough work to occupy everyne anyway so why bother trying.

      That’s the the problem, the one which the politicians don’t want (or possibly can’t) to address. Our massive productivity means that we don’t all need to be working 40+ hour weeks to maintain a good living standard. As that is true then we must be doing them for another reason so, Who benefits from all that work? It’s not hard to answer that question as obviously not the 75% of people who’s income doesn’t meet the ‘average’ wage.

      • blue leopard 4.2.1

        Why isn’t there serious discussion about lowering the working week? Other countries have done this. This is an intelligent response to the developments in work-saving technology.

        Isn’t it better that all New Zealanders have work and if it came to it, more had supplements to their wages, than some having huge hours and others having nothing? I believe there is good economical reasons for this approach; more money being spent AND a more motivated community of people.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Why isn’t there serious discussion about lowering the working week?

          Because it enforces full employment which means the capitalists will have to increase wages rather than profits.

          • blue leopard

            …and why aren’t all New Zealanders made aware that there are more effective forms of economic strategies available than the Blame-the-Bennie approach?

            Here…I’ll answer this one for you. Because people with no real clue how to create positive living conditions for all New Zealanders would have to think up some other way to retain their jobs OR give up on their careers as politicians.

            …But what about investigative journalists? Where are they?

            • Draco T Bastard

              But what about investigative journalists?

              Can’t have those either as they may get around to actually informing people rather than just propagating the lies that TPTB want people to believe.

              • blue leopard

                No DTB I agree; we most certainly wouldn’t want to have people informed.

                …so its “where there is a demand” (need to be informed) “a supplier will arise” (informative media will meet the supply)…

                Unless this doesn’t suit another sectors’ profit earning ability; if such a sector can create a monopoly situation then they will act to create false market readings?

                • Draco T Bastard

                  so its “where there is a demand” (need to be informed) “a supplier will arise” (informative media will meet the supply)…

                  If people actually think that they’re informed then there won’t be any demand for better information.

    • Colonial Viper 4.3

      There aint enough work to occupy everyne anyway so why bother trying.

      Actually, there is more than enough work to be done in our towns and cities and rural areas to occupy everyone. A lot of it is emotional labour eg. teaching, tutoring, nursing, caring, etc. Certainly more in terms of infrastructure maintenance and building up public transport etc. Sorting things out in a properly designed, and robust manner, instead of good enough short term patches that we have all become used to in NZ.

      Problem is, we don’t have an economic and monetary system which can turn all this societally useful and needed work into paid jobs.

      • AmaKiwi 4.3.1


      • muzza 4.3.2

        We need a reversal of sorts, but before anything can even begin to happen, we need there to be some truthful , detailed information about the reality of the consequences, which are inevitable on current course, and in some cases, are with us alrady!

        There was mention above of investigative journalism, and DTB picked it, that if people think they are informed, they will not demand better. This is a crux of one of the largest problems, which is the controlling of the narratives, to control the minds of those who bother to seek news/informtion. Many people seriously believe that they are “up to speed” with current affairs, politics and the like, they are simply mind controlled sheep!

        Unless this changes, then sadly it is an accelerating decline, with more and more people quickly finding out that they are no longer part of the “middle class”. To be fair its likely those same people who have their heads firmly in the sand hoping that it won’t land on them, it will!

        As CV points out, there is so much work which would add value back into society and communities, which does not invovled people working on spreadsheets, behind computer screens.
        Globalistion has gutted most used to have high standards of living, exactly as it was designed to do, and that is the mindset that needs a reversal.


    • Draco T Bastard 4.4

      Iceland Was Right, We Were Wrong: The IMF

      The bankers told us that our governments could no longer afford the same education, health care and pension systems which our parents had taken for granted. Iceland told the bankers that what the country could no longer afford was to continue to be blood-sucked by the worst financial criminals in the history of our species. Now, after three-plus years of this absolute dichotomy in economic policymaking, a clear picture has emerged (despite the best efforts of the propaganda machine to hide the truth).

      As I say, the one thing we can’t afford is the rich.

    • Populuxe1 4.5

      Nah, I’m in the middle and I’m still fucked.

    • infused 4.6

      Funny, my dad got a job easy enough and he’s 51.

    • Jeremy List 4.7

      I’m just a couple of years over 25 and I’d still be fucked if I went back to New Zealand. Stark contrast with my pretty decent job as an embedded systems engineer in China.

      • lprent 4.7.1

        There aren’t that many companies in NZ in that area. I can kind of count the ones hiring on my fingers without getting to my toes. People in the embedded area don’t seem to move around that much.

        I’m doing one of those jobs on the software side at present. I like writing tight GUI code so linux/Qt is nice after dealing with the microsoft bloatware.

  5. seeker 5

    Was only thinking the other day, after hearing a commentator remind us that the motto for the London Olympics 2012 was “inspire a generation”- that in little ol’ New Zealand national’s motto could well be “expunge a generation”! Disgraceful!

  6. NickS 6

    And I’m now in a similar situation (%*%&^ depression!), and thanks to depression have no references to grab a job with, so I’m ripe for potential exploitation…

  7. The govt focus should be on the younger generation,but it isn’t, key and his
    militia still praise the fact that benefit numbers have dropped,what they dont
    let on is that it can be because of the huge amount of people that have gone
    to aussie and refusing to renew those on sickness and invalids.
    The welfare changes are punitive,degrading,ad-hock and ill thought
    out and will do so much more damage to the economy and the well being
    of nz’ers that can be imagined.
    Instead of making life difficult for those such as j.andals they should be
    taking every conceivable opportunity to inspire and support our young
    ones to get ahead,to have a future in nz,to get educated,to get a trade,
    to have ‘a brighter future’ the very verbal jargon that was used to haul
    in the unsuspecting voters relishing every word that key said,only to
    now realise they were false words,false promises,so the heading should
    have been for a ‘blighted future’ vote for key and the nacts.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Influential middle class, middle aged NZ willing to sacrifice the younger generation in order to maintain their own expectations of lifestyle, income and low tax rates.

      Expect to see this phenomena worsening as economic decline deepens.

  8. prism 8

    I’ve noticed investment companies talk regularly about the ageing deciding the level of income they want to retire on and asking if people want to continue their working income lifestyle into their old age. Up to 90+? This age is becoming more common. And there seem to be so many women regularly appearing in the paper for winning contests like the silliest hat competition. In cohesive supporting communities the older ones work for their family and food, and the younger ones care and watch out for the older generation. But silly hats is it in NZ.

    And there is a total unwillingness in older people to think about the viability of the situation and act to support their/my meal ticket – the younger generation who should be able to have jobs, money and be happy. Instead it reminds me of the Day of the Triffids, the population largely went blind and to get enough food in the dystopial situation, they had to be harnessed to the ploughs. Here it is both young people and those older than the thrusting young blades who have trained as models of the very modern manager, who can be rounded up and virtually sent to the workhouse.

    There is so much going on to increase people’s life expectancy. (I can’t give a link or source but someone being interviewed recently on Radionz said that for most of the thousands of years humans have been evolving, the average age at death was 18.)

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      In 15-20 years in the US, as the last of the baby boomers hits post retirement, there will only be 2 working age persons supporting each retired person. And because money is not a real resource, and money does not perform any work, having lots of money (electronic digits associated with a paper based retirement account) may mean very little.

      Something is going to break and break bad, IMO. Not suddenly, but over a good number of years.

      Those nice retirement savings forecasts of 5% pa real returns are going away forever. As many people in the ‘developed world’ have already found out. A combination of kleptocratic theft and long term energy/debt driven economic slowdown being primary causes.

      66 million people in the US live near or below the official US poverty line. The so-called richest country in the world. And their political leaders, apart from a few like Bernie Sanders, don’t give a frak.

    • blue leopard 8.2

      Has this


      not been covered on The Standard yet?

      Is there a crisis re superannuation or is it just another form of bashing the vulnerable and effectively putting off what REALLY needs addressing?

      • Draco T Bastard 8.2.1

        not been covered on The Standard yet?


        Is there a crisis re superannuation or is it just another form of bashing the vulnerable and effectively putting off what REALLY needs addressing?

        Depends upon who you’re asking. IMO, the problem is the system which is designed to reward the rich. As more wealth goes to the rich other parts of society can’t be afforded. Change the system so that the wealth doesn’t accumulate into the hands of the few and all these issues of critical social importance will easily be affordable.

        • Colonial Viper

          A 0.5% asset tax on net worth over $1M. Applies to individuals, trusts and property. Get that stock of capital moving back into the real economy.

          And I’d deliver half the revenue garnered to helping small employers and entrepreneurs expand and grow as co-ops and mutual organisations.

        • blue leopard

          @ DTB cheers, will have a read…tomorrow
          @CV def agree that supporting the setting up of small businesses/co-ops a good way to go.

  9. xtasy 9

    Come on, this is clearly the best “export story” that NZ can present! Human capital so to say, we are getting close to the Philippines, Bangla Desh, India and Pakistan now, who are rating a bit higher in the record statistics for exported labour. But calm down, NZ is moving fast up the ladder now, becoming a hit, a real hit, as Dotcom likes to talk about his “hit” (Mega Upload). Maybe call it a ‘Mega Download” for NZ, sort of, aye?

    Yes, NZ is doing really well, with educating so many into tertiary degrees, that are so in need and welcome across the Tasman, trade could never have been better at all. If I’d be into exports business, I would right away open an international personnel agency exporting great staff from dull and underpaid NZ to the rest of the developed and in some cases even not so developed world.

    NZers are all over the place, not only at Oktoberfest, but steadfastly working in some jobs in Germany, France, UK, Holland, Scandinavian countries, even in Prague, Czech Republic, Poland, Spain, of course many in the US, Canada, heaps (half a million now) in Australia, and even in the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, South American countries and parts of Africa.

    Exports are growing by the day, trade is taking off. Get educated in NZ, leave your student debt behind, realise your potential and NEVER come back, the future is all yours!

  10. xtasy 10

    While I totally understand the message in the head story, there must not be a “losing generation”. This may well be an economic decision based on dumbed down, stupid and ignorant economic thinking that a present government has sucked up from a bygone era Milton Friedman “and friends” kind of crowd, but it is totally alienated to the economic reality of the world as it is.

    I do not give a few considerations or hoots on a bit take and give on right or left wing economics, the blatant truth is: The FTAs that we were bloody preached to and promised have NOT delivered! Where is the job creation for economic, supposed “comparative advantage” sake that Nats and even Labour bloody promised us in the late 1980s and early 1990s? There is ZILCH and NONE of advantage, of true job and income growth that has happened.

    Instead economic smart countries like Mainland China and a few others played their smart cards, manipulated or “adjusted” their currencies, otherwise some are so smart and highly competitive, no matter what the exchange rate may be, Germany, Switzerland and even Holland and Finland still do quite well.

    So what is the bloody solution for a little, overly agry and tourism focused economy like NZ to survive. It cannot be that we get more of the same, for sure. Get a wake up call, call up a few leading economic players, collectives and so forth, to bring in investment, ideas and more to grow the local economy.

    Does anybody realise that in Europe collective housing or cooperative housing businesses are doing extremely well, have offered affordable housing for ordinary people for decades, while in NZ it is all left over for the speculator and small to meduium investor to make the most of the buck, rip everyone off, write off losses on tax and so to the government, and even let cold, damp and rubbish flats for exorbitant rents to poor, desperate tenants in Auckland and Christchurch?

    Wake up NZ, this is NOT right!.

  11. There are different layers through the workforce and unemployment in NZ is mostly concentrated at one end with people who either lack skills, qualifications or experience. Despite this further along the line there are significant skill shortages where employers really struggle to find skilled and experienced staff that simply cannot be trained up – you can’t suddenly train someone to have five years experience.

    So there is good immigration to help with this – which creates jobs and prosperity by bringing in highly skilled people with specific skills we don’t have here right now- and there is bad immigration – which reduces opportunities for New Zealanders by bringing in people who will compete at the lower skilled end of the jobs market, reduce wages and reduce training opportunties.

    Over the past two years good immigration is down by 30% – a loss to New Zealand of $2.16 billion in direct income alone, not forgetting the additional $40 million shortfall the immigration department has had to deal with as a result as two thirds of their funding comes from fees.

    Over the same period bad immigration is steadily increasing, for example in Christchurch leaving the Canterbury rebuild to ‘the market’ has shown that for many companies it is cheaper to bring in low skilled labour from overseas than train locals. With a wider view training locals is a much better option, but this is only happening in a limited way. There is no way the current rules (which are very strict) should permit this, but it’s happening anyway.

    Another recent change is to allow English language students on short courses to work while studying. Previously only students on degree or higher courses (and therefore likely to add to NZ after they graduate) were allowed to work. Naturally students are going to compete for unskilled and semi-skilled jobs with NZ workers and I am struggling to understand why the increase in students attracted for courses offsets the potential damage and cost caused at a time when unemployment is rising here.


    • kiwi_prometheus 11.1

      Surprising to see someone actually addressing the negatives of immigration on this site.

      Usually its all pro immigration propaganda – “great for the economy!”, “multiculturalism is awesome!”.

      “A net 33,000 of them have left for Australia under National – 13,000 in the last year. That’s twice the rate of emigration under Labour.”

      So NZ was hemorrhaging away under 9 years of Labour too. But it was a more drawn out kind of dying , so Labour is the best option! 🙄

      • Hi kiwi_prometheus

        Properly managed immigration is hugely beneficial to New Zealand – both economically and culturally. The last census confirmed clear profit of $3.3 billion over costs making it a little strange that recent policy has reduced the greatest drivers of this income (skilled workers) to concentrate on investors (where most of the profit goes offshore) and students (who are now allowed to compete with kiwis for jobs).

        The immigration system in New Zealand is strict, well balanced and works extremely well, however policy tweaks appear to be seriously undermining the stability of this service, the benefits it brings, the guiding principles of fairness and natural justice and even the effectiveness of meeting the purpose of immigration. 

        Multiculturalism is another thing and not to be confused with immigration. While immigration is the act of bringing people into the country for economic and cultural benefit, for example to fill skill shortages created by kiwis heading off to Australia multiculturalism affects what happens after arrival.

        To me this means how the rights and traditions of newcomers are respected and is generally more correctly labelled ‘political correctness’. While the traditions of newcomers should be protected and preserved some believe that these traditions should be respected above the cultural traditions and rules of society existing in New Zealand.

        Having seen what that kind of view did to the UK I see no place for it in New Zealand, so yes I am pro (positive) immigration, but I am anti multiculturalism.


        • KJT

          Migration policy in New Zealand has simply been used as a way of forcing down wages. For both skilled and unskilled jobs.

          New Zealand business do not want to invest in their employees. They do not want to pay for the training or the wages to keep skilled people. Even though they have effectively managed to pass most of their training costs onto tax payers.

          Immigration policy hands them a pass every time. Allowing them to avoid what should be the logical consequences of paying below the market and refusing to train anyone.

          For example I know several skilled trades where there was absolutely no shortage of skilled New Zealanders. The companies involved went crying to immigration that they could not get New Zealanders to do the jobs.
          The only reason they could not get anyone was the miserable wages and conditions they were offering.
          Same as the building trades run by Fletchers in Christchurch.
          Even now they rely on short term employees from India and China who want an entry to Australia.

          Funny that it takes huge salaries to attract Managers and Directors to do their jobs, but skilled people are supposed to be attracted by third world rates.

          The chickens are coming home to roost. Everyone in my profession under 50 are now working in Australia, Singapore or the far East.

        • fatty

          “To me this means how the rights and traditions of newcomers are respected and is generally more correctly labelled ‘political correctness’. While the traditions of newcomers should be protected and preserved some believe that these traditions should be respected above the cultural traditions and rules of society existing in New Zealand.”

          Has this happened in NZ?…or is it just that some people believe it should happen?

          • Carol

            Having seen what that kind of view did to the UK I see no place for it in New Zealand, so yes I am pro (positive) immigration, but I am anti multiculturalism.
            What’s the evidence that it happened in the UK?

            PS – it doesn’t match with my experience living in the UK, so can you cite any evidence other than your own perception of your experiences?

  12. Te Reo Putake 12

    Press release from the EPMU’s Bill Newson on this subject:

    Record Aussie exodus shows failure of ‘hands off’ approach:
    Figures released today showing a record number of Kiwis left for Australia in the last year are a result of the government’s lack of a plan for a high wage, high skill economy, says the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.
    EPMU national secretary Bill Newson says the government’s ‘hands off’ approach to the economy isn’t working.
    “The National Party campaigned strongly on closing the wage gap with Australia and stemming the exodus of Kiwis across the Tasman, but in government they’ve presided over a growing wage gap and a lost generation of Kiwi workers.
    “New Zealand will only ever catch Australia if we have a government that’s willing to support a modern, innovative manufacturing sector that creates good, secure, high-paying jobs.
    “That means providing practical support for the manufacturing sector, taking action to bring the exchange rate under control, and supporting employment laws that reduce inequality and empower working New Zealanders to get a fair share of growing productivity.
    “This record exodus to Australia shows National’s ‘hands off’ approach isn’t working, and after four years it’s time for the government to take responsibility, change course and come up with a plan to lift wages.”

  13. Fortran 13

    Why is it assume that jobs are easier to get for unqualified people in Australia.
    Recent articles in the Aussie papers show that for an Aussie getting a job without qualification is getting very tough so what make you think the it is any easier for a Kiwi.
    J Andels – keep at it and go back to get all NCEA you can.

  14. fatty 14

    A brief 30 min speech from Bronwyn Hayward. She has just released a book looking at how we are screwing the future of NZ children. The books looks at how childhood today is different from the past – http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781849714372/

    “Children growing up today are confronted by four difficult and intersecting challenges: dangerous environmental change, weakening democracies, growing social inequality, and a global economy marked by unprecedented youth unemployment and unsustainable resource extraction.”

  15. Tim G 15

    What surprises me most is that no-one has commented on J. Andals name yet. Turns out that it is a supportive crew at TS, after all.

    “I’m looking for Amanda Huginkiss!”

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