Today's offering from the New Zealand Institute, self-described as its "first discussion paper focused on social wellbeing," is a missed opportunity to tackle the real drivers of youth underachievement, according to ACT New Zealand leader Dr Don Brash.
The report is entitled "More Ladders, Fewer Snakes: Two Proposals to Reduce Youth Disadvantage.' Its two proposals are beefed-up e-learning programmes in schools and better school-to-work "transitioning."
"The Institute laments at length the plight of our youngsters relative to that of youth in other OECD countries, including our high rate of youth unemployment, but astoundingly, overlooks one of the prime reasons for it," Dr Brash notes.
"ACT has repeatedly pointed to our relatively high minimum adult wage - and the absence of special, lower rates for youth - as prize culprits in making the taking on of youngsters unaffordable for employers. We have cited reputable research indicating that Labour's abolition of youth rates has cost young people some 12,000 jobs. And that doesn't take into account the jobs lost through the tax and regulatory burden faced by business, which ACT would substantially reduce.
"While the Institute should be applauded for exposing the unacceptably high number of youth being cast on the unemployment and underachievement scrapheaps they have extraordinarily ignored each of these factors. No amount of e-learning can create jobs if business can't afford them.
"As for more effective school-to-work 'transitioning,' it's noteworthy that the New Zealand Institute wants to see a new programme to effect this 'transitioning' overseen by a new government agency. New Zealand is burdened with too many ineffective bureaucracies as it is; one more is hardly going to solve our problems.
"The Institute costs the implementation of its proposals at around $200 million. The Government is already borrowing $300 million per week; another big spending policy is the last thing that taxpayers need. Policy makers would be far better to reinstate the youth wage – something that would yield significant results with negligible costs. That way there'd be jobs for youngsters to 'transition' to.
"All the well-meaning ladders in the world will be of no use if the lower rungs have been removed by bureaucratic, red-tape snakes," Dr Brash concludes.