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Kate Wilkinson

9 October, 2012

Starting-out wage will put young people in work

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has today confirmed the introduction of a new starting-out wage that will help provide young New Zealanders with more opportunities to get into the workforce.

Speaking at the launch of the Government's Skilled and Safe Workplaces Progress Report, Ms Wilkinson said the new starting-out wage was the latest in a series of steps to help get more New Zealanders into jobs in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis.

"The new starting-out wage will create demand for young people by giving employers a real incentive to take them on," Ms Wilkinson says.

The Minimum Wage (Starting-out Wage) Amendment Bill provides for eligible 16- to 19-year-olds to be paid no less than 80 per cent of the minimum wage.

"The new starting-out wage will help some of our youngest and most inexperienced workers get a much-needed foot in the door, in what is currently a tight labour market.

"The starting-out wage was one of National's 2011 campaign promises, and designed to provide 16- to 19-year-olds with the opportunity to earn money, gain skills and get the work experience they need."

Three groups will be eligible unless they are training or supervising others:

  • 16- and 17-year-olds in their first six months of work with a new employer
  • 18- and 19-year-olds entering the workforce after more than six months on benefit
  • 16- to 19-year-old workers in a recognised industry training course involving at least 40 credits a year.

Those who are training or supervising other staff must be paid at least the adult minimum wage.

The starting-out wage will be simple for employers to implement, and will apply for a blanket six months after starting work with a new employer.

"The youth minimum wage was abolished in 2008 by Labour in a move that resulted in the loss of up to 9000 jobs," Ms Wilkinson says.

"The starting-out wage is part of a wider package to help get more young New Zealanders into work or training.

"This Government's continued focus on getting young people off benefit into work has already seen thousands of young people benefit from subsidised work placements and pre-employment training."

This includes 17,000 placements for young people through Job Opportunities and Community Max and 2000 through Job Opportunities with Training. A further 3500 young people have been through the Limited Service Volunteers programme.

The Government's Youth Guarantee scheme has seen $97 million in fees-free tertiary places for 16-and 17-year-olds, with the investment increasing to $127 million by 2016. The scheme is in high demand with 7345 places being taken up in 2012 alone.

This year the Government consolidated the Work and Income employment programmes Job Ops and Straight to Work into the $62 million Job Streams package, a simpler, more flexible business-focused model.

"These opportunities are vital if we are to address long-term benefit dependence, as 90 per cent of 16- and 17-year-olds who leave school and drift are likely to end up on benefits when they turn 18," Ms Wilkinson says.

"The Government's 90-day-trial periods are also helping employers provide job opportunities for thousands of workers. The starting-out wage is another initiative to help more young people into jobs," Ms Wilkinson says.

The starting-out wage is due to come into force from 1 April 2013.

For more information, please see http://dol.govt.nz/starting-out-wage/

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