SABC News - Key issues affecting the Youth of South Africa today:Wednesday 17 August 2011

Key issues affecting the Youth of South Africa today

Wednesday 17 August 2011 16:23


42% of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 are unemployed

42% of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 are unemployed(SABC)

Youth Unemployment and youth absence from the mainstream economy

Youth unemployment in South Africa has increasingly come under the spotlight as an urgent social, economic challenge, while some even argue it to be a 'ticking political time bomb'. This is however not unique to South Africa, with countries in North Africa and the Middle East having recently experienced the social implosion as mainly a consequence of youth unemployment.

Dr Christopher Malikane, an associate professor of economics at Wits University, describes the face of youth unemployment in South Africa as peculiar because it is charaterised by a severe  lack of access to basic services. He attributes much of South Africa's socio-economic problems to the fact that the country has not addressed its legacy of apartheid. By the end of 2009, 53,4% of young black Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 were unemployed and this was three times worse than the unemployment rate of 14,5% among young white South Africans. According to Malikane, although SA became a signatory of the Youth Charter in 2009, the country “remains racist, sexist and class-based and has failed to confront patterns of ownership and control of the economy”.

The AU Youth Charter specifies that “every young person shall have the right to social, economic, political and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind”. However, despite the declarations, the South African labour space remains by and large characterised by exploitation; with a large casual labour force.  Most unskilled young people find their services utilised here.

Malikane argues that accelerating growth given existing patterns of distribution will accelerate inequality and poverty and the youth will be most affected by this as they make up a big chunk of the labour force.

A 2008 survey by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranked South Africa the worst in terms of unemployment between the ages of 15 and 24, followed by Spain with a figure close to 25% and Italy at around 20%. Worldwide youth account for nearly one-half of the unemployed and represented one-quarter of the labour force. High youth unemployment often comes as a result of lack of skills and experience which works against these young jobseekers. While some might have the required levels of education, these are however not a substitute for the required skills.

The basis of the solution to youth development and economic participation in South Africa is access to decent education as a way of addressing the skills mismatch in the country. A March 2010 Human Sciences Research Council's (HSRC) study highlighted the challenges of staying in the higher education system and subsequent challenges with finding employment. The study was conceived in response to the generally accepted notion that the country's higher education throughput rates are too low - regarded as one of the lowest in the world. Conducted at seven institutions, it also assessed the wide disparities in graduation rates between race groups.  The labour market discriminates against graduates from historically disadvantaged institutions.  Malikane argues that a body such as the NYDA needs to aggressively mainstream youth policies across all sectors of government.

Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst, stresses the need to read young people's absence in the mainstream economy as not only a youth problem, but a national problem. According to him the slow pace of economic transformation is an urgent national crisis and impedes on whatever progress young people try to make. To Mathekga, there is a direct link between general unemployment and marginalisation of young people from the mainstream economy.

Key indicators:

•         Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan in his Budget speech noted that: "South African youth were worse off than their global counterparts in other emerging economies with 12.5% of them below the 25 employed compared to the average global statistic of 40%".In SA, employment of 18 to 24 years olds has fallen by more than 20% (320 000) since December 2008.

•         To this end R9 billion has been set aside over the next three years for a Jobs Fund to co-finance innovative public-and private-sector employment projects.

•         A youth employment subsidy is set to create a net 180 000 jobs over three years with a R5 billion youth employment subsidy under discussion by government.

•         About 42% of young people under the age of 30 are unemployed compared with less than 17% of adults over 30. Only 1 in 8 working age adults under 25 years of age have a job compared with 40% in most developing countries.

•         72% of the youth population in Sub Saharan Africa as living on less than $2 a day as a result of poor education and lack of skills (Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project: 2010).

•         Youth unemployment went up from 49.7% to 49.4%, general unemployment declined from 25.2% in the first quarter of 2010 to 25%in the first quarter of 2011 (Institute of Race Relations).

•         42% of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 are unemployed

By the end of 2009, 53,4% of young black Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 were unemployed and this was three times worse than the unemployment rate of 14,5% among young white South Africans

Skills Shortage

Skills shortage poses a serious threat to the country's long-term economic growth potential. A report by Adcorp Employment Index alludes to the fact that the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) have not done as well as expected and notes how, for example, the National Skills Fund failed to disburse R3.5 billion which was earmarked for skills development.

In January 2011, Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande launched South Africa's third National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS III)  in an effort to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of South Africa's skills development system. Amongst other planned activities, the NSDS III will focus on technical and scarce skills; address the low levels of youth and adult language and numeric skills which will enable additional training. According to the minister, 'South Africa faces a shortage of intermediate and artisan skills'. A deliverable has been set at ensuring that 10 000 artisans per year qualify with relevant skills and subsequently find employment.

One of the NYDA's mandates is to ensure skills development and promote access to economic participation. To this end, the youth agency has partnered up with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to ensure that young people form part of international trade delegations.

OECD argues that a range of policy responses are required to achieve rapid sustained growth where employment is needed. A multi-dimensional approach is needed which would, for example,  look at ‘improved basic education, reduced spatial mismatches between jobseekers and jobs, and better access to credit for small enterprises as well creating the conditions for and encouraging entrepreneurship. The AU chair, Dr Jean Ping, in his Africa Day address, stressed that youth concerns on the continent have to be seen as legitimate to avoid similar revolts that swept across Tunisia and Egypt.

Youth and HIV and AIDS

HIV and AIDS is a social issue that cuts across race, class and gender.

Fast facts:

•         In South Africa, more than in any other country, an estimated 5.6 million people were living with the disease in 2009.

•         According to a UN Report, Opportunity in Crisis, launched on 1 June 2011 - an estimated 2 500 young people are newly infected with HIV daily. The report found that young women and adolescent girls faced a disproportionately higher risk of infection due to biological vulnerability, social inequality and exclusion. Globally young women make up more if than 60% of all young people living with HIV and AIDS - jumping to 72% in sub-Saharan Africa.

•         In South Africa, women and young people are most affected by HIV and AIDS. According to Lovelife the country continues to have the highest infection rate.

•         According to 2009 Lovelife research findings, 9% of the country’s youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are living with HIV and AIDS. 

•         Among the HIV positive 15 – 24 age group, 77% of them are female.

•         75% of HIV positive individuals were between the age of 20 and 24 years and 95% were African.

•         59% of these lived in urban areas and 41% in rural areas.

•         A UN Report, Opportunity in Crisis, estimates that 5 million (4.3 million–5.9 million) young people (aged 15–24) and 2 million (1.8 million–2.4 million) adolescents (aged 10–19) were living with HIV in 2009.  Although these young people could be found in countries on all continents, most of them lived in sub-Saharan Africa.

•         Globally, young women make up more than 60 per cent of all young people living with HIV; in sub-Saharan Africa their share jumps to 72 per cent.

•         The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) believes that HIV is a social issue that needs an integrated approach and is concerned by the fact that 36% - 56% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) have experienced loss of employment and 40% - 61% workplace discrimination, exclusion or forced disclosure of HIV status. The trade union is concerned about the fact that more than 90% of PLHIV are workers with infections concentrated among people of working 15 to 49 years.

 The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA):  A achievements, challenges and a critique

The NYDA was officially launched to much enthusiasm on 16 JUNE 2009. The agency targets youth between the ages of 14 and 35. Their key performance areas include economic participation, education and skills development, facilitating the national youth service, policy, lobby and advocacy as well as ensuring that there is social cohesion amongst this group. Under increasing scrutiny from civil society and political parties, the NYDA has had to justify how it spends its money and to what end their programmes and initiatives benefit the youth of South Africa.
For more on the establishment of the NYDA click here.

•         In 2009 the government of South Africa has adopted the National Youth Policy 2009 - 2014. The Policy speaks to young people falling between the age group of 14 to 35 years as states in the National Youth Commission Act 1996 and the National Youth Policy 2000

•         The agency came under heavy criticism in 2010 for spending approximately R100 million on the World Festival of Youth.

•         According to the chairman of the NYDA, Andile Lungisa, the agency's R380 million budget is insufficient to resolve issues unemployment in totality amongst the 15 - 24 age bracket

•         To date the agency has facilitated R64.4 million in funding businesses by young people

•         They have assisted 31 000 young people with start-up loans

•         500 young people graduated from the NYDA's National Rural Youth Service Corps programme and 60 000 jobs were created through the agency's entrepreneurial and life skills programmes

•         5 277 young entrepreneurs went through the agency doors in need of business consultancy services vouchers and were assisted in that regard

•         The agency reports that in excess of 11 000 were connected to job opportunities through their database

•         More than 400 000 young people received career guidance

A critique of the NYDA

Ralph Mathekga says that the NYDA is supposed to be a non-partisan agency, seeing to the needs of all youth, serving and identifying their challenges, irrespective of political affiliations and yet it is popularly seen as an extension of the ANC Youth League. The deployment system used by the youth body of employing individuals predominantly from the ANCYL compromises and easily shifts the NYDA’s focus from delivering to the youth to fighting political battles within the ANCYL. The danger also lies on the fact that the youth agency can be easily seen to be used as a channel for dispensing patronage in the youth politics of the country.

The IFP Youth Brigade argues that there is no significant difference between the NYDA and the failed Umsobomvu and Youth Commission. According to them it was a mere merger of two failed institutions and a change of name. According to the DA youth the youth agency is unclear about its mandate and how it is supposed to serve young South Africans. It viewed money used during the World Festival of Youth as a waste of resources that could have been used to create ‘real opportunities and to develop skills. It has since withdrawn from the NYDA.  

The FF Plus youth views the NYDA as a stumbling block for youth development in South Africa. They believe the youth should rise up against the poor managing and wasting of funds. The COPE youth movement has called on President Zuma to relieve the NYDA board of its duties and subsequently dissolve the NYDA as it has lived to be cash for the corrupt ANC-aligned people. The AZAPO youth have also called on the president to disband the NYDA. The Pan Africanist Youth Congress views the NYDA as mute and invisible on issues that affect young people in the country as a result of not having a strategy and programme to advance youth development in this country.

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