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Discuss about the Low Youth Engagement in New Zealand Political System.

Every nation and its citizens have the power to choose their leaders and democracies around the world underlie this particular principle itself. These policies aim at addressing the voters’ needs and so if there is any gap in the turnout of the voters from any particular age group, it is bound to imply that the practices have very little or no positive impact on the people for whom the changes are considered. This issue is faced in case of New Zealand, where the number of voters in the low age groups is very less in percentage. Despite the fact that turnout of the voters was more or less high in the previous elections of New Zealand, the fact of concern is that the turnout of the youth, that is of the people aged between 18 to 24years was extremely low compared to the turnout of all other age groups. The youth of the country are lagging even in terms of numbers enrolled to vote as well as the number that actually turns up on the day of voting.

This is a significant issue as the youth are the future of tomorrow and the probable leaders as well the drivers of the world. The matters relating to the low turn up of the youth in the elections is definitely significant and worth considering. In case these matters are not addressed with sufficient time in hand, there is the possibility of disenfranchisement which can lead to the debilitation of the country in the long run. It has been recognised as a significant issue by many and dedicated research is to be undertaken by many in order to understand the key reasons behind this issue. Based on existing information as well as the previous number of researches conducted, it has been found that several steps where implemented to increase the number of voters and make the voting process easier, as well as accessible to all (Davis, Phyak & Bui, 2012). The inclusion of celebrities in the voting campaigns, the availability of enrolment forms in many fast food restaurants, shopping complexes as well as liquor stores were the steps taken to encourage all voters to participate in the upcoming elections, especially the youth. Technology also played an important role in the reduction of the accessibility as well as the knowledge barrier as they provided a ready access to those people having an internet connection. Social networking platforms were also given huge amount of importance by the political leaders in order to garner appreciation from the youth. The initiatives which were aimed at addressing the indifference as well as the lack of motivation were done to conduct a message among the youth regarding the fact that the concept of voting is not only a right but also a responsibility. Despite these attempts there was no significant improvement in the percentage of youth participation in the poles. The issue faced by New Zealand is also faced by several democracies today. Issues such as the specific non-voter segments, attitudes as well as physical barriers have been identified as contributing to the low turnout of the voters comprising the youth in New Zealand.

The Problem of Low Youth Turnout

The dismal participation of youth in the polls of New Zealand is considered as a policy problem as the youth is the future of any country and if the youth do not participate, the elected leaders cannot be said to be a reflection of the mindsets of the youth. There are several reasons which are blamed for the low participation of youth in the polls. According to the surveys conducted among the youth, they had to say that a very low level of information is available about the politics of the country and the lack of proper communication is also another issue. Besides this, it can be said that the lack of young leaders in the political parties also led to the low levels of participation of the youth. It can be said regarding this that the youth are unable to identify with the aged leaders and in order to need the proper participation of the young age group these existing issues need to be addressed. In connection to solving this significant issue, three important probable policy decisions are discussed (Kelsey, 2015).

The first important policy decision is the proper inculcation of civics education in the schools so that the youth are encouraged and drawn towards the voting process from a young age and understand the significance of their engagement in the voting process. Popular leaders as well as professionals have to say that the civics education in schools should focus on the concept that the voting process and casting one’s vote is actually a step towards the successful running of a country and can contribute towards making the society a better place to live in (Colomer, 2016). Thus the inclusion of civics into the curriculum should be made compulsory at all schools of New Zealand. The education about being a responsible citizen, learning about the citizenship in New Zealand, should be introduced as a part of the regular study. The gap between learning about the basics of society and its implementation needs to be put into practice by the concept of voting (Palmer & Palmer, 2004). As the youth feel that the system is not working for them, the youth should be assisted in understanding how the system works in their favour. Only if the youth feel that the voting process engagement will help them benefit from it and their lives will be improved will they engage in the system actively (Bell, 2012).

Probable Policy Decisions to Address Low Youth Turnout

The next important policy decision is the inclusion of young politicians as the leaders of the country. As stated by the youth in the surveys conducted, the generation gap between them and the leaders do not help in the proper communication of the aims of the country. The average age of the members of the parliament is much higher than the average age of the voter population. Traditionally this incident occurs due to the inclusion of experienced people in politics who have gone after gaining experience in their careers as well as a proven public standing (Hayward, 2015). The fact which is undeniable is the inclusion of those politicians whose demographics are absolutely unrepresentative of the people. This is a huge reason for the non-voting stance of the youth. It is not unjust to say that seeing people of similar age groups and in the same generation in the parliament is a factor which is bound to encourage young people to vote. There are exceptions however in case where the old people have also appealed to the youth. However inclusion of more and more people in the parliament in the young age group is bound to increase the number of young voters’ participation in the elections to come. The young leaders help the youth relate with them more easily and assure them of having a voice in the parliament. Thus this can be considered as a significant policy decision (Eichbaum & Shaw, 2007).

Another policy decision which is being pondered on by the voting process authorities is the possibility of lowering the voting age. The existing voting age being 18 years is to be changed to the lower age of 16. 16 is the voting age for many countries and is not a baseless decision as it seems to be. Majority of the leaders however have discarded the idea of this reduction in the voting age, as the required amount of maturity is not attained at the age of 16. While some people argue that this is the necessary option, others feel that just lowering the voting age is not enough to get the youth interested in the politics of the country. Instead the deeper malaises need to be fixed (Hayward, & Wheen, 2016). The politicians need to be aware of the difference between their promises as well as their actual performances in order to engage the youth more (Ichilov, 2013).

In order to understand whether the implemented policy decisions are significant or successful, the main thing to be done is to wait for the upcoming elections, in order to understand the impact of the implemented policies. It also needs to be understood that the results of such policies have to be analysed over relatively longer time spans and the results may not be immediately visible. However, if an idea needs to be made regarding the way in which the implemented policies are shaping up, the best possible option is to conduct a survey. The survey should be conducted comprising the young people as the respondents in order to get an idea as to how they feel regarding the new proposals for implementation of the policies. Depending on what the youth have to say, the authorities can modify their proposals for implementation accordingly. It also needs to be understood that the existing pressure on the youth may not always allow them to engage in activities of their choice. It is in such cases that they are not able to participate in important decisions involving the nation. It can be concluded that the issue of low levels of engagement of the youth needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

References:

Bell, S. (2012). The power of ideas: The ideational shaping of the structural power of business. International Studies Quarterly, 56(4), 661-673.

Colomer, J. (Ed.). (2016). The handbook of electoral system choice. Springer.

Davis, K. A., Phyak, P., & Bui, T. T. N. (2012). Multicultural education as community engagement: Policies and planning in a transnational era. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 14(3).

Eichbaum, C., & Shaw, R. (2007). Ministerial advisers, politicization and the retreat from Westminster: The case of New Zealand. Public Administration, 85(3), 609-640.

Hayward, J. (2015). New Zealand government and politics. Oxford University Press Australia.

Hayward, J., & Wheen, N. (Eds.). (2016). The Waitangi Tribunal: Te Roopu Whakamana i te Tiriti o Waitangi. Bridget Williams Books.

Ichilov, O. (2013). Citizenship and citizenship education in a changing world. Routledge.

Kelsey, J. (2015). The New Zealand experiment: A world model for structural adjustment?. Bridget Williams Books.

Palmer, G. W., & Palmer, M. (2004). Bridled power: New Zealand's constitution and government. Oxford University Press, USA.

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