YEA Data Points

The Impact of COVID -19 lockdowns on youth employment

Written by Mayur Chauhan, Skills Programme Specialist – Youth Employment

We are seeing through recent data an increased number of young people across New Zealand and most notably in Auckland that are going onto the benefit. COVID’s impact and the rollercoaster of lockdowns and the effect that it has had on youth workforce has been significant.

The Martin Jenkins COVID Youth research has identified key themes and potential indicators that point towards why young people are turning to getting a benefit.

Disengagement among youth has been profound with the NEET rate in Auckland being its highest since 2010 (14.1%).

Indications of attendance across all learners were affected most notably for Māori and Pacific youth in lower-decile schools. Instances of difficulties in the home environment (crowded homes, space to study) access to digital resources (laptops, internet access etc) and having to support family and whānau by cutting-back or dropping out of school to look for work to support families. It is important that a focused approach and early adoption of transition support for Māori and Pacific youth in low decile schools is provided. This is so that they remain in education for as long as possible or are given opportunities to take up further training in a skill or qualification so that it gives them the best chance to be able to gain the knowledge, skills and experience required for better employment opportunities.

Sectors and industries that have a large youth workforce (tourism, retail, trade, accommodation, and food services) have been severely impacted by COVID-19, lockdowns and the rules and regulations that come with it. The youth workforce has borne the brunt of this impact, some of the consequences has meant working hours have been reduced to losing their jobs as businesses adapt to becoming leaner and more efficient in its ability to keep operating in an uncertain climate.

The most recent count of 18 – 24-year-olds on the benefit has reduced and this could be attributed to last quarters bounce back in job ads and the demand for workers across industries and sectors. However, with the current lockdown impacting a number of businesses most notably SME’s there could be a potential spike in young people going onto the benefit. We could see a cyclical nature of businesses having to let go of workers in order to still operate especially under tight COVID rules and regulations.

Businesses are beginning to understand that the youth workforce is highly critical in its ability to operate as we navigate through COVID, with on-going skills and workforce shortages across many sectors and industries. It is important more so now than ever that there is further investment in young people who are entering or are already in the workforce. Young people need to be provided the opportunities for entry into the workforce, training, and professional development (courses and qualifications), including providing a career pathway progression plan. These are all things employers need to implement so they are quality employers while also ensuring they are retaining and developing their youth workforce.