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“Politicians have sucked the life out of young New Zealanders” this according to a very good opinion piece in the Herald yesterday by University Macro Economics professor Robert McCulloch.
He makes the point that even though students and staff returned to campus post lockdowns, “students are reluctant to physically attend class.” He says it’s because ‘they can’t see a future, their mojo and buzz are gone’, and that ‘despondency rules.’
How depressing is that? The thing is, he’s not wrong. He cites students who’ve told him they’ll leave as soon as they graduate for international jobs with higher pay and lower living costs, students who say they feel like their entire course has been done on Zoom.
McCulloch argues the Government took away their dreams by sucking the air out of them, they’re lonely – he cites a NZ study showing:
“Loneliness is highest among people aged 15-24. Teen suicide rates are among the worst in the OECD.
Cognitive skills at age 15 are in decline. Levels of school attendance are declining and particularly low among those in more deprived areas. We have the highest rate of bullying in the OECD.
“People aged under 25 are least likely to report life is worthwhile and less likely to vote than young people in other OECD countries".
As he says, “so much for the "well-being budgets".
He also points out how the Prime Minister, once a luvvie of the younger cohort, has lost the room. “National now polls better than Labour for voters under 40.”
McCulloch reckons it’s a variety of factors contributing to this.lockdowns to protect the elderly, and “the Reserve Bank’s money printing programme which favoured asset-rich”. But I think the best point he makes is that “rewards for achievement don't figure in our politics. Instead, it’s dominated by talk about the evils of inequality between the top 1 per cent and bottom 1 per cent, as if the 98 per cent don't exist.”
How true is that? So much time spent pandering to the fringes and the margins that the middle is forgotten and entirely over looked.
It’s almost as though if you dare to succeed in this country, you’ll be slapped back down before you even get started. McCulloch doesn’t think a National government will be any better by the way; his point is that youth are just so disillusioned they’ll no longer vote at all. They’re voting with their feet instead and bailing overseas.
We know this on a personal level too. I had a nephew home from studying in the States recently, he took one look at Auckland and said nope, it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever live in New Zealand again. Out of our 5 kids, 4 of them are out of school and at University age, one bailed overseas straight away, unlikely to ever be back, two others are about to leave. That’s 3 out of 4 saying to NZ, no thanks.
So in locking our country up and shutting it down for two years, and only making life harder for people, what have we done to our young people, who by the way are the future. They’re despondent, disillusioned and wanting to bail, how's that good for NZ?