Concerns young Kiwis 'short-changing' their future as stats reveal more people in 20s foregoing further study

Young New Zealanders are increasingly choosing to earn rather than learn after school, foregoing further education and heading straight into the workforce, a new study finds.

Over the last six-years, there has been a large increase in the proportion of 20-24 year olds with a school qualification as their highest qualification, Statistics New Zealand has found.

The most recent data shows there are 66,800 more 20–24 year olds who are working and not in education than those in education.

Two-thirds of those 66,800 have a school qualification as their highest qualification, while two-fifths have a bachelor’s degree as their highest qualification.

Statistics New Zealand labour market statistics manager Sean Broughton said: "This data suggests that many young people are heading straight into the workforce after completing their school education, rather than continuing with further study."

"Almost all of the increase in the number of working people whose highest qualification was achieved at school was from those who were working, but not in education."

Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell says the statistics are worrying.

"It's really negative. In the long-term they are short-changing their opportunities," Mr Campbell said.

The proportion of people aged 20-24 years who were in education decreased from 31.8 per cent to 24.3 per cent and the proportion of 20-24 year olds with no qualification has fallen from 14.1 per cent to 8.2 per cent over that period.

The proportion of working 20-24 year olds in that period has grown from 65.2 per cent to 74.1 per cent.

Statistics New Zealand saw a growth in occupations such as sales workers, managers, and community and personal service workers, including both hospitality workers and carers and aides.

For young men, there was also growth in the number of technicians and trade workers.

The retail trade and accommodation industry accounted for about one-quarter of the increase in working 20–24 year olds, particularly for women.

Mr Campbell said it's a fact this age group want to work more than they want to study but it's a bit unfortunate.

The main reasons why this age group aren't studying, he says, is because it's a lot of concentrating, often it's a bit lonely and sometimes there is a misunderstanding of where the study might lead to.

"A lot of people don't know enough information about what study does for them in the long term," Mr Campbell said.

"Regardless of lifetime income and employment, society is better off with educated people, that in itself is a benefit."

The Statistics New Zealand data looked at a six year period from March 2012 to March 2018.

Group of graduate students holding their graduation hats.