1996 New Zealand Census Information
These tables give details on three health-related facets of young New Zealanders' lives as interpreted from data recorded in the 1996 Census: levels of educational qualification in school leavers, unemployment rates, and youth mortality. The selection reflects a particular area of public concern, namely the high number of deaths, among young males especially, from suicide, self-inflicted injury, and motor vehicle accidents. In 1996, the suicides of young people aged 15-24 years, represented 26.6% of total suicide deaths, yet that age group was only 15.6% of the total population. Although the number and rate of youth suicide declined between 1995 and 2000, the Maori youth suicide rate continued to be approximately 50% higher than the non-Maori rate. (See: Youth Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand.) The definition of young New Zealanders reflects social and political changes over recent decades, most noticeably the expectation of a longer period of financial dependency. The calculations for tertiary student allowances, for example, initially took parental income into account until a student turned 25. Yet the legal drinking age was reduced from 20 to 18 in 1999, and youth can apply for a restricted driving license at the age of 15. There is some inconsistency in defining the ages of transition from child to youth to young adult.
Cultural contexts are significant when considering the links between education, employment and the health of young New Zealanders in the second half of the 20th century. Ethnically, New Zealand society became more diverse in this period, with two major changes being the migration of Pacific Island peoples during the 1960s, and new immigrants from Asian countries from the 1980s onwards. While the different levels of educational attainment account for some of the disparities, diffidence and difference also influence employment rates for cultural minorities.
Ministry of Youth Affairs, New Zealand Now: Young New Zealanders, Wellington, Statistics New Zealand (http://www.stats.govt.nz), 1998, 43,64,84,85. Annotated by Jeanine Graham.