It's not often that I agree with anything Fran O’Sullivan writes, let alone on her advice concerning government policy for youth unemployment... But her article in the NZ Herald today is a step in the right direction.
If I have one New Year's wish it is that John Key returns from his Hawaiian summer holiday brimming with enough determination to challenge the nation's employers - and himself - to tackle youth unemployment.
It is truly bizarre that the number of unfilled skilled jobs is increasing at the same time as we have record youth unemployment and many graduates find themselves working in jobs that don't pay them enough to get on top of student debt and have enough over to save for their futures.
Of course Fran O’Sullivan is talking in code here... What she's actually doing is trying to lead people down the path of more state interference and a harsher regime of government repression particularly for young people. That's what the first job summit was all about, and it gained National momentum that they're desperate to find again.
There is no escaping the fact that O’Sullivan wants National to appear to be doing something about youth unemployment with another economic summit, when all they've actually done so far is make a lot of promises and failed deliver. We don't need another job summit from National; we need action and policy changes that will work to reduce youth unemployment... However I suspect a change in government will need to happen before anything improves.
O’Sullivan is being particularly insincere when she says Key might come back from holiday with all the right solutions, when National has been continuously displaying a complete lack of proper governance and no solutions at all to remedy the social and financial issues the country faces. They're an ideas free zone, and nothing is likely to change in that respect.
The fact of the matter is that National won't give up their gravy train and will simply continue to blame youth for the problems they face. Unemployment is just one issue amongst many and with things getting harder under the neoliberal agenda, youth are getting tougher and less likely to follow the rules.
This dynamic was factored into the right wings plan whereby they've built many more jail cells than is currently required. Things are going to get tougher, particularly for those who resist the fascism that's endemic within National's ideology. Despite that fact, O’Sullivan does her best to sugar coat the problem with some subtle get tough on youth and blame the victim propaganda.
Many have been brought up on a "follow your dream" diet only to find out too late that just following dreams doesn't always result in a job. An injection of realism is long overdue.
But that's no reason for the nation's leaders to shrug their collective shoulders and do nothing about the jobs deficit.
Key could start by cancelling the top personal tax break and "reinvesting" the hundreds of millions of dollars that would otherwise have gone into Bill English's Treasury coffers into a massive state-backed scheme to train young people in the skills needed for today's workforce.
Key could do that but he won't... There's too much riding on National placating the baby boomers, who make up the majority of voters. National hopes to maintain power by ensuring their tax free havens and tax breaks for their support base remain in place.
I hope that I'm wrong, but Key won't put what's best for the country ahead of Nationals potential re-election. They will of course roll out some bribes closer to the election, but this won't include incentives for people who don't have much of a political voice. That will mean the youth will continue to be ignored by the current ageist government, and the relevant negative statistics will continue to worsen.
But the Prime Minister needs to be bold and courageous.
There are big gaps in the New Zealand workforce, many of which should be filled from within - not simply by bringing in more immigrants because this country's leaders still will not comprehensively tackle the necessity to invest in skills training. Or because talented New Zealanders and those "workers" with some get-up-and-go have done just that, because New Zealand pay rates are too low. Or because they don't have the necessary skills for the jobs on offer.
I hate to agree with O’Sullivan here, being that she's a National party propagandist, but having youth sitting around doing nothing while the government spends millions on setting up immigrants to tackle the workload is a lose lose situation.
The social disintegration from creating an underclass with little hope for a brighter future apart from winning Lotto is one of the reasons New Zealand has one of the highest rates of youth suicide in the world. Experts have pinpointed the gap between rich and poor as being of particular detriment to a developed society, and New Zealand under a National government has excelled at creating more inequality than ever before.
The neoliberal agenda has and continues to cause untold misery for many Kiwi families... It's therefore well past time that National woke up to their numerous failings and put what's best for the country ahead of their own selfish agendas.