Having decided to beat up on a few thousand of the most hard done by young people in the country, National is now refusing to acknowledge the problem of disconnected youth that has ballooned under their watch. There are enough young people who aren’t in education, training, or work to fill Eden Park, and Key is literally running from the issue.
In a disgraceful display in Parliament yesterday, John Key refused to answer a question on his own promises regarding youth unemployment from Phil Goff and transferred the question to Paula Bennett. Not to be outfoxed, Goff swapped questions with Annette King, who had a question to Key accepted, also on youth issues. However, when Goff got up to ask King’s question, Key ran from the House like a coward, leaving Bennett to make excuses and try to deflect the issue. [inthehouse doesn’t have video up yet]
We have a serious problem in this country with disconnected youth who are locked out of work and education by the government. Last time this happened, during the neoliberal revolution, we got the 90s crime wave and the world’s highest rate of youth suicide as Roger and Ruth’s children became angry, hopeless young adults.
Right now, there are 58,000 young people aged 15 to 24 not in education, employment, or training (ironically, called ‘NEETs’). Duncan Garner points out that’s enough to fill Eden Park. I’m more worried about what else they will be filling if this is allowed to go on: planes to Australia, prisons, gang houses, dead-end jobs, and holes in the ground as teen suicide begins in rise again.
The first step in solving a serious problem (as we know from climate change and peak oil) is for those with the power to do something about it to acknowledge there is a problem. And National won’t.
Key’s disappearing act is just part of it.
Bennett refuses to talk about the 58,000 ‘NEETs’. When asked about disconnected youths in Parliament, she skited about how there are ‘only’ 16,000 young people on the dole now and that’s down from January last year. Of course, that’s just a seasonal change. In truth, youth dole numbers are nearly as high as total dole numbers 3 years ago. And, anyway, just looking at the dole number ignores all those aren’t on the dole but aren’t in education or training either – another 42,000 on top of the 16,000 Bennett acknowledges exists.
Garner’s having none of her attempts to use number games to plaster over a serious issue.
Then, Key and Bennett try to pretend that unemployed young people aren’t really unemployed. See, to be part of the ‘official’ unemployed you have to be looking for at least one hour a week of work. And, according to Bennett, a lot of the 65,000 unemployed 15-24 year olds are in school or uni, so they’re not really jobseekers in her opinion.
Key and Bennett want us to believe it’s just 65,000 people wanting paper runs, I guess.
And they have no explanation for why there are suddenly so many more unemployed – data obtained by Labour shows that the number of young people who have been out of work for a year has increase 8-fold since National came to power – let alone why there are 58,000 who are unemployed and not learning.
National’s final play is to try to blame the problem on the abolition of the youth minimum wage. Now, that’s clearly ludicrous because we’re talking about 15-24 year olds and the youth minimum wage only applied to 16 and 17 year olds, most of whom are in school anyway.
It’s funny, in a way, that the Nats are now trying to blame young people getting the same pay for the same work as an adult for more young people being out of work, because when the law came in, as the Herald points out, National was saying equal pay was bad because it would draw more young people out of school into work. David Bennett, for example, told Parliament: “this will be a disincentive for people to go into education, when that is what we should be promoting as a country”. It didn’t happen, btw. The number of young people in the workforce has fallen sharply in recent years because THERE. ARE. NO. JOBS.
And that’s what it all comes down to. There are 58,000 young people out there right now for whom there are no jobs and no appropriate education opportunities (remember those Adult Community Education cuts?). That is a massive waste and a huge problem for us all. But before we can fix it, the government has to have the courage to admit that it exists and has expanded due to its neglect and malicious cuts.
What chance of that, do you think?
[PS. Trevor Mallard was kicked out for calling Key a chicken as he ran from the House. Fair enough, maybe. But there was some strategy in it from Lockwood. Mallard was kicked out for rest of the ‘sitting day’. When the House enters Urgency, the ‘sitting day’ continues for however many actual days it takes to get through all the bills in the Urgency motion. National has engineered it so Labour’s House Leader can’t be in the House while National slams through 11 laws this week]