Post COVID-19 the rise in youth unemployment will see the poorest hit the hardest

Posted on 09 April 2020

Post COVID-19 the rise in youth unemployment will see the poorest hit the hardest: Government, business and employment support is paramount

The post COVID-19 economy will hit young people hard, especially those from poorer families.

Māori and Pacific students from poorer communities and young people who are refugees or with disabilities particularly according to Youth Employability Programme – ‘Licence to Work’ Director Shirley Johnson.

“Poverty is a principal obstacle to employment. Despite Government making a significant impact on levelling academic achievement across socio-economic communities this has not translated into job equity for youth. NEET (young people not in education, employment or training) numbers have not changed in the last five years and are set to substantially increase as result of COVID-19. Targeted support is needed for these most at risk groups.”

The Youth Employability Programme – ‘Licence to Work’, which is a national initiative led by COMET Auckland, is designed to make it possible for all 14-24-year-olds to gain the insight, confidence and skills to get work, keep work and create careers. The programme is delivered in schools and community organisations offering skill-building workshops, voluntary work experience and work experience with a local business. “This combination of skill-building and work experience is what makes a difference for youth employment outcomes,” says Johnson.

History shows that as youth unemployment rates rise, mental health issues among young people also rise. Young people from communities with economic/housing/social deprivation and families with multiple generations of unemployment are most at risk.

Johnson says the impact will be felt for decades making the support and recovery policy response from Government extremely important.

“At this critical stage of a young person’s life and career, failure to find a job can have serious implications for their self-esteem and general mental health. Lack of family resources, support and connectivity with the labour market (especially when parents are also out of work) can worsen the impact.”

For those struggling to enter the workforce, Johnson says it can create a sense of outrage. She says the young people may have done all that was asked of them at school and now find their way forward is blocked. “Frustration, fear and anger can lead to young people giving up or

acting out. Youth are already vulnerable to marginalisation in the labour market because they lack skills, work experience, job search abilities and the financial resources to find employment.”

Now with many medium and small business owners faced with the current economic situation their focus is on business survival and the young worker is often the first to lose their job.

But with a greater online presence Johnson says the digital savvy Generation Z’s may become powerful assets within the company. “Research constantly reinforces the benefit of diversity in an organisation to achieve greater innovation, creativity and of course reflection of the demographics of the consumer.”

“Perhaps central government could encourage tax credits or payments for employers taking on this important role of supporting young people to complete work experience and move into the workforce. Local governments could use procurement contracts to support and encourage contractors to do likewise.”

Despite the range of services, programmes and activities for youth, (in particular disadvantaged), Johnson says many of these programmes have not developed into a coherent system of support. She says this is due to the administration of programmes within several agencies, funding streams and the lack of mechanisms to coordinate their activities.

“If we want a labour market that embraces social mobility, wellbeing, equity and inclusion it's critical we take time to build employability skills through programmes like the Youth Employability Programme – ‘Licence to Work’ to enable young people to successfully transition within and between jobs.”