16 June 2021
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has called on funders, policymakers and administrators of youth programmes to look beyond just training young people for the labour market. With more than 64 million unemployed youth worldwide and 145 million young workers living in poverty: youth employment remains a global challenge and a top policy concern. Amongst the BRICS countries South Africa sits with the highest youth unemployment rate.
Figures just released by Statistics South Africa show that the unemployment rate for young people between the ages of 15-34 years has increased from 63.2% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 63.3% in this first quarter of 2021.
This figure is substantially higher than the national unemployment rate of 32.6% for the same quarter. Together, these figures also suggest that unless policy makers address structural unemployment – amongst others the mismatch between skills sets and available jobs – the unemployment rate will not only remain high but will also increase.
This has been confirmed in recent joint labour market studies by the Universities of Johannesburg and Cape Town. The first of these studies looked at the outcomes of young people who participated in youth employability programmes between 2017-2018. The second looked at the Quarterly Labour Force Survey and the General Household Survey to understand the situation of young people who were neither in employment, education nor training (NETTs). The third was a qualitatively study of youth unemployment over the past years.
The employability study found that only 28% of participants could secure permanent jobs, putting structural unemployment among young people at around 70%. The NETTs study found that they were in and out of jobs, while the longitudinal study found that youth were frustrated by constantly attending training sessions without securing anything permanent.
In basic terms, this means the income earning potential of more than 12 million young people – including tertiary institutions graduates – is severely curtailed. Such long term unemployability also condemns these young people to live on the margins of society where they might resort to drug abuse and crime as coping strategies. Nationally, post-apartheid South Africa faces the sad prospecting of counting yet another lost and wasted generation among its ranks.
International studies that have been done on youth unemployment show that there are other factors that limit the ability of young people to find sustainable jobs that are neither related to the labour market nor the educations system. These factors are mostly of a socio-economic nature. They include food insecurity, income insecurity and personal responsibility such taking care of younger siblings or elderly and infirm parents. It is these factors that FEDUSA would like to see incorporated in youth development and employment programmes.
A long-standing structural problem preventing many young people in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries – of which South Africa is a member – from making a successful transition from school to work is the high rate of school drop-out. In South Africa, 40% or 4 out of every 10 youngsters who set out on the 12- year journey from Grade 1 to matric fall by the wayside. In basic terms, the education system is failing nearly 50% of the country’s children as they have no certification on which to build a post school vocation.
The Zero Dropout Campaign – a national advocacy campaign that plans to reduce the drop-out by 50% by 2030 – has shown that no national task force has been set up to address this crisis despite it being well known to education authorities in the country.
However, a number of metros and provinces have started rolling out youth guarantee schemes which include free online courses, free Wi-Fi to access job placements websites and free passes on public transport with the support of the OECD. The OECD is also providing technical support to strengthen the vocational education system.
For interviews requests please contact:
Mr Jacques Hugo
FEDUSA Vice President: Development
083 263 2566
Ms Dorothy Nokuzola Ndhlovu
FEDUSA Vice President: Gender and Social Justice
076 424 8747
Ms Riefdah Ajam
FEDUSA General Secretary
079 696 2625