A big focus of my leadership of the Labour Party has been about creating more opportunities for young people. It’s only by giving people the freedom to achieve their goals that we can ensure they get a shot at the Kiwi dream.
If you look at the policies we’ve launched in the last two years – three years free tertiary education, dole for apprenticeships, building 100,000 affordable homes for first home buyers, entrepreneur grants for young people – they’re about creating opportunities for people that they increasingly don’t have under the current government.
74,000 young adults in this country are not in employment, education, or training. Thousands of them are left by the current government to sit on the dole for months and years on end. It’s soul-destroying, and it means they’re more likely to have lower incomes and be unemployed for long periods later in life.
Our vision is that all young people who are able will be in work, training or education. To get there, we’ve made education more accessible with fees-free study. We’ve made training more accessible with dole for apprenticeships. And, now, I’ve announced the next policy to provide employment.
Under our Ready for Work policy, all young people who have been on the Jobseekers - Work Ready benefit for six months will be offered a full-time job for six months, paid for by the government, working on environmental and community projects.
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These will be proper jobs paying the minimum wage or better with full employment rights. This job experience will allow young people to make a valuable contribution to their community and earn an income, as well as fostering a work ethic and making them more attractive to employers.
They’ll do much needed environmental and community work that would not otherwise be carried out. It’s anticipated many will work on Department of Conservation projects. DoC is struggling to meet its goals in the face of funding and staffing cuts. The area of land where pests are being controlled is falling and only 56% of tracks are maintained up to DoC standards.
Councils and NGOs, too, have many important environmental and community projects that they would like to do, such as riparian-planting, but can't do because the labour cost is prohibitive. There’s lots of work that is crying out to be done that will make New Zealand a better place, and there are thousands of young people on the dole who are ready and able to do it. It just makes sense.
We estimate about 10,000 people will participate in Ready for Work. It’ll cost $60m a year but this investment will result in large savings to the government and society over time.
Labour will not abandon our young people, as National has. Labour will get them back working and give them hope for the future.