The Right To Work: Maximising The Employment Potential Of Young New Zealanders

Young people are our future wage earners, decision makers and leaders. However, for many young people in Aotearoa New Zealand their right to work is greatly hindered. The risk of exclusion from employment remains greatest for Māori and Pacific young people, for young people in deprived areas including work-poor rural communities and for disabled young people. The Commission has looked for examples of effective solutions that have resulted in increased youth employment for these groups. This online resource shares what we found.

The Right To Work Report – Accessible Version

Foreword

In the coming decades, the number of New Zealanders over 65 is expected to more than double.  Young people will be increasingly relied upon as wage earners, decision makers and leaders. Maximising the employment potential of young New Zealanders will play a crucial role in our country’s future. Worryingly, for many young people in Aotearoa New Zealand their right to work is greatly hindered.

The Human Rights Commission highlighted youth employment in its National Conversation about Work in 2009, and then again in Tracking equality at work in 2011 calling it a “ticking time bomb”.  The Commission also advocated for a national plan for youth employment – and welcomed steps taken by the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs in 2012 to roll out a national youth to work strategy.

The risk of exclusion from employment remains greatest for Māori and Pacific young people, for young people in deprived areas including work-poor rural communities and for disabled young people. Each of these groups is disproportionally represented in unemployment figures.

The Commission has looked for examples of effective solutions that have resulted in increased youth employment for these groups. This online resource shares what we found. It includes case studies which focus on young people with disabilities as well as youth employment initiatives in South Auckland and the Far North.

We were very impressed by the people we met and their “whatever it takes” attitude to engage and support young people into sustainable employment. They all emphasised the importance of work for well being, health, self esteem, providing income and strengthening communities. Jobs change lives and when young people are in work it not only opens up new opportunities for them, but also for their families.

These case studies highlight the need to focus on ‘work readiness’ and helping young people to gain the confidence, skills and attitudes necessary to find a job and build a career. They also demonstrate the importance of providing  ongoing support and pastoral care when a young person begins a new job, smoothing the way for both employer and employee.

The case studies also teach us that getting young people into jobs isn’t just a ‘tick box’ exercise. It is about building the aspirations of our young people and helping them to achieve long-term, sustainable employment. It is also about ensuring that communities and businesses understand and embrace the long term benefits of employing young people.

We hope that these case studies will serve to inspire young people and employers alike.

Dr Jackie Blue, EEO Commissioner.

Right To Work Report: Case Studies

South Auckland: Read how organisations including CadetMax, In-Work NZ, Youth Connections, and the Pasifika Medical Association have increased youth employment.

The Far North: Read how community focused initiatives are harnessing the potential of young people in the Far North to ensure the future growth and prosperity of the region.

Young people with disabilities: Read how Be.Employed is urging employers not to miss out on the untapped potential of disabled young people.

What is the right to work?

Everyone has the right to work. The right to work is a fundamental human right which is set out in international law. Work plays a central role in people’s quality of life. It provides people with a livelihood to support themselves and their families. Work is also a source of personal dignity, family stability, community wellbeing and economic growth.

The right to work also impacts on other human rights such as the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to education, the right to housing and the right to culture. The right to work is set out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states that:

“Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23).

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Articles 6–8) defines the core elements of the right to work. These are: the opportunity to work; free choice of employment; just and favourable conditions of work; non-discrimination and the right to form and join trade unions.

Other internationally-agreed human rights instruments recognise the right to work for particular groups, including people with disabilities; women and indigenous peoples.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi is our own, unique statement of human rights.
When it comes to the right to work, the Treaty provides for Māori to have equal opportunities and outcomes at work as well as for Māori participation and leadership in decisions that impact upon Māori employment.

Unfortunately, the fundamental right to work – whether you are a disabled person, Pākehā, Māori, Pacific, Asian, gay, lesbian, a transgender or intersex person, male, female, young or old – is still not a reality for all New Zealanders.

The domestic and international human rights framework provides an important lever to realise and promote the right to work. Human rights can be used as a tool to:

  • Hold decision-makers accountable for decisions, policies and practices that impact on the right to work
  • Empower people to use their voice and use rights as leverage for action
  • Promote non-discrimination and the equal enjoyment of rights by all people
  • Enable participation in decision-making
  • Ensure that decision-making is linked to the agreed human rights norms as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights covenants and treaties.