Countering youth unemployment has become a theme of focus in South Africa as various stakeholders are looking to resolve what seems like a bottomless pit of unemployment. Interestingly, youth make up most of the South African population which makes them the critical factor in growing the economy. Currently the youth (aged 15-34) remain quite vulnerable in the labour market with the unemployment rate at an all-time high of 37,1 % which is 10.6 % above the national average (http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=9561). There’s a sense in which various contributors to the economy will need to consider partnering more aggressively to balance the scales in unemployment rates. Despite the great deal of policy attention and the implementation of a range of public and private interventions, the situation seems to have not improved. Understandably so, in most cases the private sector’s top priority is profit maximisation and they run calculated risks that are determined by the labour market.
The unemployment rate is indirectly influenced by the nature of the labour market and further complicated by incompatibilities between the skills required and those that are provided through the educational system. Therefore there is an employment mismatch. The other challenge that propagates unemployment, undeniably, is the legacy of apartheid that resulted in the current demographics and spatial landscapes. Young people who live on the periphery of the major metropolitan areas have no option but to spend more time and money looking for work. With all the facts about poverty and high unemployment rates, what can be done to counter youth unemployment? Perhaps this is the battle that this generation needs to conquer. Market based quality education is a critical tool in navigating this challenge, but more efforts from our experience the South African labour market is ready to mentor young people on how to apply what they have learnt to add value to the organisations they work with. This issue of unemployment needs to be collectively and aggressively addressed by all stakeholders. It is our belief that civil society organisations, businesses, government need to leverage each efforts and strengths in order to overcome these challenges. The perspective of the youth has to change to that which is participative, engaging and evolving. The elephant in the room is the youth, how badly do we want the status quo to change? Are we taking advantage of what is already being done or are we waiting to be rescued? Are we willing to get our hands dirty?
The youth need to move past entitlement and hunger for change. Africa has its riches on land; and perhaps we can encourage our young people to get out there and till the land rather than thinking of corner offices and shiny shoes. Youth entrepreneurship appears to be another option to be cultivated bearing in mind that the bulk of the population will be employed in jobs. We may need other creative ideas to eliminate poverty all together. It is about the restoration of the dignity of South Africans. There is a role we can play as young people, to take it upon ourselves to empower one another, create networks and grow together. Sometimes it may mean volunteering for a season to gain the much needed experience. As the Unleashed Woman, we are taking it upon ourselves to create a platform that provides an opportunity for young people to be linked up with corporates, government and various stakeholders for bursaries and learnerships that are so desperately sought out. This Mandela Day, we will be hosting our second annual Career Link initiative where we connect young people with opportunity: We are looking for corporates to partner with on this mission.
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