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Barriers to youth employment

Youth do not have the ease of entry into the workforce or the work stability that their parents experienced. There is also greater demand by employers for soft skills as well as qualifications.

The attitude gap report

Employers often look for young people to demonstrate the ‘right attitude’ and ‘soft-skills’ before hiring. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) sponsored a co-design challenge to understand the differences between young people's and employers' expectations of work readiness, and the impact of these differences on youth under-employment in South Auckland. The findings are also relevant to other parts of New Zealand.

The Attitude Gap Challenge report (external link) found that that the ‘gap’ is more than just attitude, but a complex clash of norms and expectations, as well as ethnic and generational differences that occur throughout the employment journey.

Some of the key insights are:

  • Employment expectations and ambitions of young people are built through the experiences they have early on, so having positive connections with employers is important for building ambition and networks for young people.
  • The process of applying for jobs can be demotivating for young people who do not understand what employers are looking for. Employers get frustrated that young people present poorly and the recruitment process is costly for them.
  • Young people often struggle with the unfamiliar processes of the world of work, which frustrates employers who see workplace culture as the norm.
  • Differences in expectations and how these are communicated can impede success once in the workplace. Young people don’t understand progression opportunities which can demotivate them, while employers are waiting to see motivation before they discuss progression and development.
  • Young people, especially in South Auckland, often need support to balance their home and community responsibilities.
  • Employers and young people recognise they need to change, but feel they lack the information and support to do so.

The report (external link) highlights the important role of employers, service providers, young people and their whānau working together to improve employment outcomes for young people wanting to enter the workforce.

There’s an opportunity for employers and young employees/job seekers to make changes at each of the stages of the employment journey: getting prepared for work, getting into work, staying in work, and progressing at work.

Trends affecting youth employment

Moving from education to employment is an important life stage for young people. There are economic and social benefits when young people are able to participate fully in paid employment and make the most of their abilities and potential. There are long-term economic and social costs when young people experience long-term unemployment.

Key trends affecting youth are:

  • Increasing numbers of casual jobs - growth in casual contracts and part-time work mean many young people are in entry-level jobs, or in jobs for a short period of time.
  • A decrease in job quality - the jobs available to young people may not give them promotion or development opportunities.
  • Many jobs across a lifetime rather than one career path - it’s likely young people may have up to three careers in their lives.
  • Getting a job from school is a process needing significant support - transition to employment now takes longer and there may be obstacles to overcome (eg needing a drivers licence).
  • Qualifications and soft skills are needed to get a job - employers are looking for ‘soft skills’ from the start. Soft skills are related to personal attributes, and behaviours as well as attitude (eg communication skills, being motivated and teamwork).
  • Hard to get a job at entry-level with no experience - young people often find it hard to get any kind of experience before looking for work.
  • Global workforce - immigration and low-cost of travel makes a global workforce available to employers, so young people are competing with a wider pool.
  • Automation is disrupting many jobs - many entry-level jobs are gone.
  • People are working longer - the population is ageing and people are retiring later. Later retirement can include employers retraining an older person to do lower level jobs instead of hiring and training young people for these jobs.
  • Tertiary education is expected by employers - access to tertiary education is expensive and many socioeconomic and ethnic groups are less likely to participate and achieve.

Young people not in employment, education and training (NEET)

The proportion of young people who are not in employment, education and training (NEET) is an indicator of youth disengagement. As at March 2016, Maori and Pacific have higher NEET rates than other ethnic groups. Read the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) labour market report (external link) on NEET rates.

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