A union representing thousands of young workers says the sharp rise in youth unemployment will significantly disadvantage people for the rest of their lives.
Latest figures show the number of young people out of work in New Zealand is steadily increasing.
Figures from the third quarter of 2010 show 19.4% of people aged between 15 and 24 are unemployed.
The rate is the highest it has been since 1992 and is worse than the average rate in countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Unite Union national director Mike Treen says there will be serious ongoing social problems if people do not get into the workforce early.
Mr Treen says people being unemployed when they are young has an impact on their income for the rest of their lives and lowers their ability to get good paying jobs.
The Government needs to be more proactive in creating job opportunities for young people, he says.
Rise 'not unexpected'
NZIER economist Shamubeel Eaqub says the youth unemployment rate has risen quite sharply over the past two years, but that is not unexpected.
Mr Eaqub says young people suffer more when there is a downturn in the economy because they do not have the skills or experience that older workers have.
However, he says the unemployment rate has peaked and more jobs should become available as the economy gathers pace this year.