The number of young people aged 20 to 24 with no income almost trebled between 1996 and 2006, according to figures released this week by Statistics New Zealand.

Young people were also studying for longer and were more likely to work part-time the report found.

Young people 1986 - 2006 Study, work and income is the second of two reports that looks at changes in young people's transition to independence.

Information was gathered using data from censuses between 1986 and 2006.

It found 15,990 people aged between 20 and 24 had no income in 2006, compared with 6342, 10 years earlier.

One in 43 22 year-olds had no income during 1996, while 10 years later this number had increased to one in 15.

At the same time young people's income almost halved between 1986 and 2001, from $18,900 to $10,100, before rising slightly by $1400 to $11,500 between 2001 and 2006.

Statistics New Zealand spokesman Conal Smith said there were many variables but it looked like a greater proportion of students were neither working nor getting a student allowance.

However, it was in line with figures showing more young people were in full-time education, Smith said.

"It's what we would expect to see ... if more students were studying full-time, more would be earning no income."

More than 30 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 years were studying during 2006, up eight per cent up 1996.

Young females were more likely to be in study between 1996 and 2006, and were also more likely than young males to study full-time and study at a younger age.

Numbers of young males in part-time study did not vary by age, while young females were more likely to study part-time at older ages.

The report found, that with the exception of Europeans, young Asians were twice as likely to study as young people from other ethnic groups.

Almost 70 people of young Asians were in study during 2006, compared with 30 per cent of young Pacific people, and 25 per cent of young Maori.

The report says this is a direct result of the numbers of young Asians who come to New Zealand specifically for their tertiary education.

Young Europeans had the largest percentage increase in study participation between 1996 and 2006 (seven per cent), while the proportion of young Asians, Maori, and Pacific people studying increased by five per cent each.

Smith said considerable changes in the economy and labour markets had influenced young people's participation in study and work during the report period.

Public policy changes during the late 1980s that supported a more 'knowledge-based' economy, may have helped boost numbers of young people in study, the report says.

This, along with amendments to the tertiary funding system, giving access to more publicly funded tertiary spaces, together with an increase in funding for private training establishments, and the establishment of institutions that focused on Maori-centred tertiary education or wananga, also contributed to the growth.

Student reaction

At Auckland's AUT, students told nzherald.co.nz that few would admit their parents paid for their living expenses - but it was a common occurrence.

Grace Vujinovich, 20, said it was "unspoken but known" that some friends were living off their parents' money rather than working. She "wished" her parents would do the same, but had to get by on part-time work and loans, she said.

Michael Li, 19, said he lived with his parents and did not work in order to focus on his studies. Finding time to do both would be a challenge, he said.

David Lee, 21, said students only had constant money and time troubles because they spent too much on "stupid things", like drinking everyday, and he knew many that did not work.

Benjamin Watt, 17, said half of his friends were supported by parents or a partner. "It's 50-50. Some people live with their partners. It's not just parents that can support you."

He expected to soon be out of work, he said, but hoped to find work because being able to support yourself was important for social status.