With youth unemployment at a record peak in New Zealand, the future is seemingly bleak for many young Kiwis. Yet dire prospects have yet to ignite a new era of political activism, reports Fale Lesa, a 21-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Auckland.
In 2008, young American citizens mobilised around the presidential election campaign, and were a critical deciding factor in Barack Obama becoming the first African American president.
In Asia we see examples of young people utilising technology for political impact and international solidarity. More recently we have watched television sets and online newsfeeds as western European students take to the streets for passionate protests against post-recession economic policy and its impact on future generations.
Add to this the youthful demonstrations across the Middle East for democracy and we have ourselves a melting pot of international youth empowerment.
But what does this mean for the world down-under, a first world country known only as New Zealand, and more commonly known as “that island next to Australia?”
Unfortunately, we don’t have mass demonstrations to compare with the encouraging examples elsewhere. We don’t have ferocious protests against unpopular government legislation, nor have we fostered publicity campaigns that prosper with the help of technology.
You could say that we are a crouching tiger, a hidden dragon, a sleeping giant. But what does this actually mean and how does this define the New Zealand youth sector today?
There is a fine line between a forward-focussed movement, and one that is both disillusioned in the wilderness of the unknown and disenfranchised by the extreme lack of momentum. This line is rather blurry and arguably the source of social and political discontent. Politics is an old man’s chess board, played best with a glass of Scottish whisky.
Most young adults don’t hesitate to turn the page on political commentary or flick the switch on political news bulletins. The popular misconception is that politics is boring, unnecessary and entirely irrelevant to the day to day hustle and bustle of young New Zealand. Critics will ask how can this possibly change, and where best to even start?
At present, the government is borrowing an excess of three hundred million dollars every week, and has been doing so since early 2009. Youth unemployment is at a record peak, and there are a number of shortages in our trades and services. So much so that we are forced to promote migrant employment schemes for overseas skilled migrants.
The future is seemingly bleak, and optimism is running dry. Apprenticeships are also in decline as private employers opt out and incentives are peeled back. I would like to see a modern education system that is accustomed to the present-day environment, and therefore more sympathetic to the varying needs of a diverse student body. Such a system should accommodate a great mixture of options that lead into further education and/or workforce shortages.
Only then can we ever expect to see a greater number of New Zealanders equipped for the ongoing challenges of a globalised society. There is no time like the present to acknowledge the importance of civil responsibility via community service and political initiative.
The overall wellbeing of young people depends on various indicators. Some of the most important include self-confidence, self-esteem and productive time management. When we invest our time with constructive activities there is no doubt that our overall wellbeing is fueled further.
What better way to spend free time than to make a long-lasting investment in our grass-root community development? This gives us indirect influence to decision-making mechanisms, and later down the track it will provide us with the foundation to take the next steps.
At the same time we earn invaluable skills, qualities and experiences to prepare us for the modern workforce, and, more importantly, for the role of active citizenship.
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