More ladders, fewer snakes: Two proposals to reduce youth disadvantage

Today the New Zealand Institute releases its first discussion paper focused on social well-being.

The paper is intended to contribute to resolving one of New Zealand’s Top 10 Issues: “Can New Zealand reduce the disadvantages suffered by young people in a way that contributes to New Zealand becoming a successful multicultural society?”

The main messages from the paper are:

New Zealand has very high rates of 15 to 19 year old unemployment compared with other OECD countries. High unemployment leads to high rates of other social issues. New Zealand youth have high rates of criminal offences, teenage births, suicide, obesity, cannabis use and hazardous drinking. Disadvantage is strongly concentrated in Mâori and Pacific ethnic groups.

New Zealand has one of the highest proportions of disengaged 14 to 18 year old students, and the lowest median age of leaving initial education compared to other OECD countries. Improving engagement in schools and the school to work transition will reduce youth unemployment.

E-learning delivers engagement, better learning and lower unemployment:

  • All students attend school so can be reached;
  • More engaged students stay at school longer and get better qualifications; and
  • Better qualified youth compete more successfully for jobs reducing youth unemployment.

Improving the school-to-work transition will help youth into jobs:

  • Build pipelines to work instead of operating schools, tertiary and employment as silos;
  • Match supply of youth skills to future workforce needs;
  • Increase employer involvement in education and training; and
  • Establish individual education and training plans for all students informed by interests, aptitude and opportunities.

Improving outcomes will provide three important benefits:

  • Lower harm and costs while the youth are young;
  • Establishing the youth on better trajectories for the remainder of their lives; and
  • A better start in life for their children.

Click here to read the executive summary or download the full report.

Boven, R., Harland, C., & Grace, L. (2011). More ladders, fewer snakes: Two proposals to reduce youth disadvantage (Discussion Paper 2011/1). Auckland, N.Z.: The New Zealand Institute. Retrieved from
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