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"It's about community" - Finding Local Solutions to Local Problems: Exploring Responses to the Social Problem of Youth Unemployment

The purpose of this research is to explore the policies and practices associated with the social „problem‟ of youth unemployment. A major focus of this research is a case study of the employment programme being utilised in Otorohanga to address this problem. This is an initiative consisting of 11 key projects to reduce youth unemployment. The projects have consistently created a situation in Otorohanga where nobody under the age of 25 is registered with Work and Income New Zealand as unemployed. This outcome has been achieved by ensuring that local youth are either in local training programmes, in employment or in apprenticeships. The research project uses both qualitative and quantitative research methods and provides a thematic analysis, from a labour studies perspective, of both literature and empirical findings from a range of interviews. In order to undertake this research, the thesis firstly provides a review of the literature on youth, unemployment, engagement and policies. Secondly, it highlights the employment policies utilised within New Zealand from the late 1990s through to 2011 and in order to examine the changes in political ideology between the Labour-led and National-led central government policies. Thirdly, the study incorporates interviews with a selection of key stakeholders involved in the successes of the Otorohanga projects. The central arguments in this thesis are: 1) that youth are a significant and poorly understood demographic; and that youth unemployment is perceived to be a social problem due to the economic and social disadvantages for youth which are exacerbated by structural inequalities; 2) that the current policies for dealing with youth unemployment, especially the emphasis on education and the impact of neo-liberal ideologies only have limited success in dealing with the issue of youth unemployment; 3) that no current policy understands or addresses the needs of youth specifically, therefore the social problem of youth unemployment will continue to be perpetuated; and, 4) that policies which draw on local, community driven solutions, grounded in labour market realities can be successful. On this basis, the research provides good practice solutions which highlight the importance of incorporating community support, passionate leadership and employment-led training options in projects designed to address youth unemployment. By identifying these good practice solutions the policy aspects that led to the success of the Otorohanga projects can be shared with other regional initiatives in New Zealand. Should this occur, the thesis aims of contributing towards reducing youth unemployment in New Zealand can be achieved and have the potential to reduce youth unemployment in other centres.
Type of thesis
Whitham, M. P. (2012). ‘It’s about community’ - Finding Local Solutions to Local Problems: Exploring Responses to the Social Problem of Youth Unemployment (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7047
University of Waikato
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