Potential link between youth unemployment and suicide - Researcher

By Talisa Kupenga

Migrants filling spaces at entry level jobs is partly why 75,000 youth under 25 are unemployed, unengaged and doing nothing, according to a new Salvation Army report. It's also believed the lack of jobs could be contributing to the increase in suicide numbers for this age group.

According to the What's Next? report, skilled migrants, educational inequality and a lack of pathways from school to work prevents employment opportunities for NZ youth.

Salvation Army spokesperson Campbell Roberts says, “We have a sort of work or industry that actually needs people straight away and they feel that they're competing in a way at an unfair level and that I think brings a lot of discouragement."

Report author Alan Johnson says unemployment can have devastating effects and that recent suicide statistics for this age group could reflect the residual causes of the global financial crisis.

Salvation Army researcher Alan Johnson says, "That age group of 25 to 29-year-olds are starting to have the highest rates of suicide and as we know those were the people age 15 - 19 at the time of the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) so one of the ideas is that maybe the things that have happened to them, the unemployment that they suffered then has meant that they've struggled to adjust later on in their life and for a few, an unnecessary number of people it's caused them to take their own lives."

The latest Chief Coroner's report shows that Māori still lead for ethnicity when it comes to suicide statistics. Johnson estimates that Māori could represent up to 50% of the youth unemployment figures and believes employment could help curb this grim reality.

"The proverb 'ka ora ka mahi' is really appropriate because to me it links the idea that work makes you healthy and that you get healthy through work and ideally that's one of the answers I think to our suicide statistics that if we give people the sense of purpose that's connected to work to making a contribution that they're going to feel healthier.

Johnson suggests schools need to work towards giving more credibility to vocational skills using their hands as well as their minds.