The job crisis in South Africa is one of the worst in the world. The OCED says that ‘unemployment is the [country’s] most salient problem … [and] an important factor in South Africa’s extreme levels of inequality and widespread poverty’.
4.2 million South Africans are out of work. The official unemployment rate is 23.5%. If discouraged work-seekers are included, the figure rises to 5,3 million people, or an unemployment rate of 28.4%.
CDE has commissioned four working papers that outline the scale of the unemployment challenge, and provide practical ways to create more jobs for young people. The consensus view is that the best way to tackle unemployment at scale is to change the factors that prevent labour markets from functioning efficiently.
We cannot continue with ‘more of the same’. Policies that have failed to reduce unemployment during the most sustained economic boom of our lives will certainly not work during the biggest slump South Africa has ever known.
Government should: create special economic zones; give tax breaks and year-long exemptions for laws on hiring and firing to employers hiring young first-time employees; pilot a vocational education programme linked to apprenticeships in medium-sized towns; and create large but simple employment schemes in the country’s poorest provinces.