High rates of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) have become a concern internationally. Research suggests disengaged youth are more likely to experience social exclusion, increased psychological distress, and poor quality of life,[1] impacting on individuals’ ability to lead fulfilling lives with purpose, balance and meaning to them. Beyond wellbeing, the costs[2] related to NEETs are significant,[3] for instance, the estimated per capita cost of each NEET rangatahi in New Zealand was $26,847 over the 2012-2015 time period. Investing in NEET rangatahi could benefit employers by enabling them to access prospective employees to match their needs, while enabling young people to find jobs, train for better jobs, improve their incomes, support their whanau and engage and contribute to their communities.

Funded through Hīkina Whakatutuki – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), He Poutama Rangatahi/Youth Employment Pathways (HPR) Strategy was launched in January 2018 as an investment in people (not programmes). The Strategy focuses on a sub-group of young people, in particular those 15-to 24-year-olds currently NEET who face the greatest challenges in gaining sustained employment.

The HPR monitoring and evaluation plan focused on addressing the Strategy’s accountability requirements over time. Knowing that achieving and evaluating[5] the goal of sustained employment would take time, the focus was to first monitor quality and progress across the individual initiatives and rangatahi over the initial 36 months. A monitoring approach and reporting system was established to estimate progress systematically across HPR providers according to the expected achievements – providers first target and enrol those most at risk, then engage and support these individuals, and ultimately help them make progress on the pathway towards sustained employment. Specific measures and reporting tools were created to help MBIE and providers delivering the initiatives monitor this progress along a theoretical pathway.

Building quality monitoring measures for Hīkina Whakatutuki – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

To guide effective decision making, government required data that represents progress accurately, demonstrating useful and up-to-date information about HPR providers and rangatahi. Providers collect and report statistics quarterly to MBIE. Data quality was assessed according to five quality dimensions – completeness, consistency, timeliness, validity, and uniqueness – for each dataset provided to MBIE from the different providers. The strengths and weaknesses of the different data, as well as an overall quality score, were summarised so Ministry officials could understand the quality of data and ultimately how they could use these data. The quality review was also used to help understand if other activities were required to improve data quality and reporting among the providers.

[1] Stain, H., et al. (2019). Study protocol: a randomised controlled trial of a telephone delivered social wellbeing and engaged living (SWEL) psychological intervention for disengaged youth. BMC Psychiatry, 19(1), 136. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-019-2116-5

[2] The 2016 OECD report (Society at a Glance) defines NEET costs as the gross labour income NEET could command if they were employed, measured as the gross labour cost (including social security contributions).

[3] Estimated loss of income totalled between 0.9{268379e7bb83c1fc9f698263331cef5dcd152766c81d5236cf53b316f30399bc} – 1.5{268379e7bb83c1fc9f698263331cef5dcd152766c81d5236cf53b316f30399bc} of the OECD GDP. OECD (2016). Society at a Glance 2016: OECD Social Indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264261488-en

[4] McGirr, M. (2019). Not just about NEETs: A rapid review od evidence on what works for youth at risk of limited employment. Ministry of Education.

[5] The impact evaluation was designed to estimate what was achieved for local youth and also whether this achievement would have occurred without HPR support. The difference the activities made would represent the value-add of HPR, and use Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure for this purpose.

Image credit: “Work hard… always” by leonfhl is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0