ANNE TOLLEY: Let's get the facts straight on NEETS


There’s been some talk about the number of young people not in employment, education or training (often known as NEETs). You may have heard claims that there are 90,000 NEETs and that these NEETs are all in need of jobs.

Such claims are mischievous at best.

If you look at the latest Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) data, you’ll see there’s an estimated 674,000 young people living in New Zealand. The large majority of them – 588,000 or over 87 per cent – are in education, employment or training.

That leaves us with approximately 86,000 young people who are classified as NEETs.

But if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find these figures include around 16,000 caregivers plus a number of young people who are volunteering, taking a gap year or off on an OE, transitioning between jobs or courses, or not working due to sickness, injury or disability.

Once you remove them from the total, you’re left with around 32,000 young people who are unemployed and actually available for work.

It’s important to remember these numbers from the HLFS are estimates, not exact head counts.

And despite claims to the contrary, we shouldn’t assume all NEETs are on benefits – because they’re not.

The Ministry of Social Development’s latest benefit statistics show that just over 46,000 15-24 year olds are receiving a benefit of some kind.

Of these, the majority are receiving support because they’re a sole parent, caring for someone at home, or have a health condition or disability that means they can’t currently work.

That means there’s only around 18,000 young people right across New Zealand who are on a benefit and who could be in a position to start work right away, which is nothing like the 90,000 quoted by some political parties.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be supporting those young people who do need it into employment, education or training. We should, and that’s why this Government is working hard to do just that.

We have the Youth Service which provides specialist case management and support to help young people into training and education and prepare them for employment, as well as Vocational Pathways, Trades Academies and the Dual Pathways Pilot. All of these programmes are helping young people into education and employment.

We’re also investing a further $7 million in apprentices and industry training over the next four years on top of the $14.4 million as part of Budget 2016. It’s fantastic we now have 43,000 apprentices in training, bringing us closer to the Government’s target of 50,000 by 2020.

Finally, we have number of programmes to get young people into work, including Taitamariki500 in Northland, Project 1000 in Hawke’s Bay, the Ara Skills Hub in South Auckland and the Youth Employment Strategy in Gisborne.

We know there are young people who need extra help to get into employment, education and training, and thanks to a strong and growing economy, this Government is in a position to give them that help.

But let’s have a constructive discussion about how many actually need this extra support before assuming all NEETs are available for work.