An "explosion" of immigrants is "crowding out" young Kiwis from available jobs, the Salvation Army says.
A report on youth unemployment by the army's social policy analyst Alan Johnson, using Statistics NZ figures, says immigration of young people aged 15 to 24 has "exploded" from a net gain of 3217 in the year to June 2013 to a net gain of 22,064 in the latest June year.
Yet 74,100 young Kiwis aged 15 to 24 were not in employment, education or training (NEET) in the year to June - a number that has stalled since a drop from 87,000 in 2010 to 72,100 in 2014.
"The persistent numbers of 15 to 24-year-olds who remain outside of the workforce as total job numbers grow, and as young migrants enter New Zealand to take these jobs, suggest this immigration is crowding out more marginalised workers," the report says.
It recommends tightening immigration rules further beyond last week's Government decisions to raise the points required for granting residence to skilled migrants and close the parent category.
"It really is something we need to talk about," Johnson said. "If we can have that good robust debate, then we might avoid some of the worst arguments that are sometimes used against immigrants."
In particular, the report says too many work visas are being granted in four sectors where young Kiwis could be finding work: building, dairying, hospitality and aged care.
"It seems timely to consider planning for the future labour demand of these four sectors," it says.
Work visas were approved in the year to June for 1005 aged or disabled care workers, at least 2846 building trades people and labourers, 3129 dairy farmers and farm workers, and at least 8245 people in hospitality jobs, including 4218 chefs.
The Herald revealed yesterday that 90 per cent of the 778 chefs who were granted permanent residence last year would not have been approved under the new rules approved last week. But most chefs come on short-term work visas - an issue which Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has said will also be reviewed before the end of the year.
Johnson acknowledged that many of the unemployed young Kiwis did not live in the places where jobs were available. But he said they would have more incentive to move to take up the available jobs if they faced less competition from immigrants.
"If that labour was not here, potentially wages would be higher because of the competition for labour, and there would be more people relocating from the regions because of the incentives that higher wages bring," he said.
The report also criticises cuts in "second-chance" education for people aged 20 or over, and deplores a collapse in apprenticeships from 53,750 in 2007 to 36,240 in 2012 - a number that has only partially recovered to 41,840 in 2014.
Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation chief executive Warwick Quinn said carpentry apprenticeships peaked at 8200 in the last building boom in 2004 and were now back to 7700 - exactly the same ratio of apprentices to new homes as in 2004.
He is developing a proposal to break down building apprenticeships into smaller modules so that young people can get the training they need for each job, job by job, rather than having to complete a traditional broad four-year apprenticeship.
Hospitality NZ communications manager Rachael Shadbolt said there was "a massive shortage" of chefs, adding: "If we could get Kiwis in those roles we absolutely would!"
Federated Farmers spokeswoman Leigh Catley said dairy farmers also had a "Kiwis first approach" but struggled to attract Kiwi workers to farms that were often remote from where potential workers lived.
Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace said his industry was "committed to providing meaningful career opportunities for young New Zealanders".
"However, the reality, as many of my members tell me, is there are just not enough available and willing young Kiwis to learn the job."
Labour leader Andrew Little said work visas should be tightened, citing 6500 visas issued for labouring work while 15,500 Kiwi labourers were unemployed.
But Employment Minister Steven Joyce said the percentage of NEET 15 to 19-year-olds was "almost the lowest since records began in 2004" and the NEET rate for the full 15-24 group was the lowest since September 2008.
"The suggestion that young Kiwis are being crowded out of the labour market is incorrect," he said. "The economic settings of this Government, which include the migration settings, have helped create 323,000 additional jobs [or 15 per cent additional jobs across the workforce] since the peak of the global financial crisis in 2009."
Sallies offered a second chance
A Salvation Army Education and Employment course gave Antonia Leota a second chance after a traumatic event forced her to drop out of school in year 11.
Leota, now 18, spoke at the launch of the army's report on youth unemployment yesterday to illustrate the kinds of problems that many of the 74,000 young unemployed Kiwis had to overcome before they were ready to work.
Leota said school became "too much" and she did not have the best relationship with her mum.
"Through that time I was disappointed and ashamed of myself, and I had no self-belief."
A family friend introduced her to an Education and Employment course in West Auckland in 2014, and through it she joined a year-long youth development course called Aspire, which was started last year by the Salvation Army with funding from The Warehouse.
Both courses provided counselling as well as tuition which helped her gain NCEA level 2 in business administration and employment skills. Then her tutor helped her look for a job.
"I applied for so many jobs in different areas, because at the time I didn't really mind what sort of work it will be. I just needed a job," she said.
She finally got a job at a bakery last month, but she will have to leave it at the end of next week because she is moving to Mt Wellington and will have to start job-hunting all over again.
Meanwhile, she has applied for a scholarship, also supported by the Salvation Army and The Warehouse, to study social work.
"When I was at school I wanted to be a police officer," she said.
"I think because I just came out of school and my mind changed to a different work that I wanted to do. I love working with children such as my three younger siblings and my cousins. I want to work alongside people and support them."