6 Nov 2016

Labour announces youth employment scheme

9:35 pm on 6 November 2016

Under a Labour government, young people unemployed for more than six months would be paid to do community or environmental work at the minimum wage.

Labour leader Andrew Little has announced the new jobs policy at the party's annual conference held in Auckland over the weekend.

"There are now 10,000 more unemployed people aged under 24 than a decade ago.

"This is an incredible waste of potential - Labour will not abandon them."

Mr Little said at the moment the Department of Conservation was struggling to meet its goals in the face of funding and staff cuts, as were other agencies and organisations like charities or non-profits.

He said an estimated 10,000 people, under the age of 24, would take part each year at an annual cost of $60 million, and could work on DOC projects or the likes or riparian planting for non-governmental organisations. The work period with the minimum wage would be for six months.

The current minimum wage was $15.25 an hour.

The new 'Ready for Work' policy was part of a broader plan which included three years free post-secondary education, entrepreneur grants and Dole Apprenticeships.

In his speech, Mr Little said he had seen first hand how such programmes work.

"By the end of the course, they've learned how to stick to a routine, how to pick themselves up when things get rough, they've learned habits that will last a lifetime."

He said 74,000 young people were "wasting away on the scrap heap", with no prospects and no hope.

Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said with one third of workers in insecure jobs, moves to boost training were welcome.

The government and some business groups have dismissed the idea of a levy, but Mr Wagstaff doesn't agree.

"We don't need excuses, we actually need action, and I don't think that New Zealand does invest in skills like it should do.

"We know from our experience that a lot of employers are very short-term in their thinking and they see investing in skills as long term investment that they're not necessarily prepared to put their money in."

But Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Steven Joyce said Labour had mis-read the job market.

He said the problem was not finding enough work for young people, but finding people with the right skills to fill existing jobs.

Mr Joyce said the policy would also cost twice the amount the Labour Party had estimated.

Meanwhile, grassroots members have supported policy remits including compulsory voting to boost voter turnout, government provided housing for teachers, medical staff and police in areas where housing was unaffordable, and removing interest on loans of young New Zealanders for the first five years of their O.E. (overseas experience).

Members also debated the right to die with dignity, and supported a remit that recognised the right of individuals to make their own choice, but did not go as far as supporting any legislative changes that would make euthanasia or assisted suicide legal.

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