The South African government has promised millions of jobs in the past and has failed to meet the goals it set for itself over the past two decades. As a result, unemployment and youth unemployment in South Africa have long been proclaimed a national crisis, with statistics placing the country at the top of a global list of 82 Last year.
Despite alarming unemployment rates, little is being done to reduce youth unemployment in South Africa.
A recent report by Statistics South Africa shows that in the first quarter of 2022, unemployment among young graduates aged 15 to 24 fell from 40.3% to 32.6%, while it increased from 6.9% to 22, 4% for those aged 25-34.
But what prevails on the ground is that more and more young people are unemployed, educated or not.
Professor Philani Moyo, director of the Fort Hare Institute for Social & Economic Research, blamed higher education and training as the driver of youth unemployment.
“The current higher and tertiary education system in South Africa is a major driver of youth unemployment, poverty and deprivation. This is precisely the case because the current model of higher education is more focused on theoretical education and simple community service which does not meet the needs of young people.
“As a result, the majority of graduates master theory and less practical work, making them jobless and unemployable.”
Philah Ngidi, 21, a graduate in translation and interpretation from Durban University of Technology, is unemployed. For her, unemployment is stimulated by slow economic growth linked to factors such as skills and experience in demand in the labor force.
“The economy is failing to grow and more and more young people are finding themselves out, as education wanes and jobs disappear.
“Getting a job is no longer just about academic qualifications; there is a growing demand for experience, which most young people do not have most of the time when looking for a job, and which they hope to exploit when given the opportunity .
Ngidi has been unemployed for a year. She says it’s hard to find a job in her field, so she often offers her services to gain experience and have a better chance of getting a job.
Impact of youth unemployment
While unemployment breeds frustration and despair, and accelerates mental health issues as reported in Daily Maverickit also reproduces all other inequalities and proliferates all forms of tests.
To research he said that because of unemployment, many young people in South Africa are disengaged from the socio-economic development of the country as well as its politics. This is problematic as it puts South Africa at risk of a lost generation.
On Wednesday, the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Advisory Council (ECSECC), an institution that provides strategic advice to decision makers to make choices and decisions that solve today’s problems and catalyze social change for a desired future , hosted a webinar to unpack South Africa’s alarming rates of youth disengagement as large masses of frustrated young people find themselves socially and economically adrift.
Ndzwana Makaula, a researcher, analyst and economist based in the Eastern Cape, said youth policies are the future.
“As things stand, there are not enough policies that prioritize the future state of youth. The fight against unemployment and social exclusion of young people requires bold strategies and decisive actions and ensures that the integration of young people is up to the task. Otherwise, we will experience a new cohort of young people who are marginalized and who are continuously marginalized in the country,” Makaula warned.
What are we doing to reduce youth unemployment?
In the recent State of the Nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the dismal unemployment figures. Stating the obvious, he says:
“If there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s that the current situation – of deep poverty, unemployment and inequality – is unacceptable and unsustainable… Last year, our unemployment rate reached its highest level on record. Unemployment was caused by weak growth, which in turn resulted from a long-term decline in investment.
Ramaphosa also said that the government does not create jobs, but that job creation is the function of the private sector, and in particular small and medium enterprises run by entrepreneurs.
This statement by the President was a radical departure from previous Sonas and government policy.
The presidential job recovery project provided a lifeline for many young people. At least 170,000 unemployed young people have been placed in phase 1 of the jobs stimulus in 2021. In his Sona speech for 2022, the president said the stimulus package aims to reach more than a million beneficiaries direct South Africans and more than half a million young people.
In addition, the Youth Employment Service (YES), a social initiative focused on youth employability and employment in South Africa, continues to ignite the fire of hope among young South Africans through the development of skills.
In March 2021, YES had an impact, creating 50,000 jobs for young people as well as declared in their 2020/2021 annual report.
There is also the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), which promotes youth development by providing scholarships, entrepreneurship, employment programs, social cohesion, and a pathway to economic empowerment through through the National Youth Service.
Criticizing the NYDA, Makaula said, “The NYDA acts like it’s the gatekeeper of youth development in the country, and they’re all over the place and not in control, which lessens what could potentially be their impact.”
Reduce youth unemployment in the future
As the country moves to celebrate Youth Day and Youth Month under the theme: “The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke: Developing Youth Employment for an Inclusive and Transformed Societyfocus should be on various youth development and empowerment initiatives to support youth and reduce youth unemployment.
Zaki Mamdoo, head of education and training at the youth activism program of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said that in the future, the call is on the government to provide opportunities for sustainable and meaningful jobs as well as safe environments for learning and development.
For Youth Day, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation invited young people to join the Youth Day for Justice and Change Parade at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane, before heading through the streets to the headquarters of the power to the Union Buildings.
This event aims to embrace and showcase innovative and creative forms of activism. The nature of the parade is to advance equity, dignity, accountability, ethical governance, sustainable and equitable development, and meaningful change toward youth challenges.
In a memorandum that young parade participants submit to government officials, they call on the state to address youth unemployment. This should involve the development and implementation of policies aimed at creating “green and sustainable jobs”, according to the memorandum.
“The nature, activities and type of these green jobs must be deliberated and decided upon during a period of extensive consultation with communities, young people and other stakeholders as part of the just transition framework,” states- he.
“When we talk about sustainable and meaningful employment opportunities, we mean a lot of different things. On the one hand, we say that these jobs must be sustainable in the sense that they must be long-term or permanent and must offer young people the opportunity to grow and develop in their career path. So it can’t be one-off or short-term forms of employment that don’t make a big difference to the living conditions of young people,” Mamdoo said.
“The reality is that young people are completely deprived of opportunities and don’t have a fair chance of getting a job. Not only are there simply not enough jobs available for our young people, but unemployment also sits alongside many other social problems.
For Mamdoo, very little is being done to address the issue in any meaningful way.
“We need the government to do more to engage with young people in a way that allows our young people to bring forward their aspirations and their ideas on how to solve the youth unemployment crisis. In addition, we have government needs to go beyond the urgent task of job creation to address youth unemployment.
“We need an intersectional approach that prioritizes improving access to quality education, from kindergarten to higher education; we need to reduce job search costs and support young people seeking opportunities; it is also necessary to support more young people who cannot study due to circumstances that force them to provide, among other things.
“Importantly, we need the government to immediately implement a Universal Basic Income Guarantee of R1,500 which serves to recognize unpaid forms of work and enables young people to invest in themselves. “. CM/DM
Michelle Banda is a junior journalist at Daily Maverick who graduated with a BA in Journalism and Media Studies from Rhodes University in 2021.