Youth unemployment in South Africa is very extensive, and dangerously entrenched. In fact, the level of youth unemployment in South Africa is among the highest in the world.
CDE undertook an intensive, large scale investigation which examined existing job creation programmes and the young people who were their target. Given the central role of South Africa’s metropolitan areas in economic growth and job creation, the project focused on the largest and most economically dynamic of them, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
Between the public and private sector there are hundreds of schemes to create jobs, prepare young people for the labour market and support aspirant entrepreneurs. Although current programmes may have valuable demonstration and morale effects, and are undoubtedly helping some people to find jobs – even if very many are of short duration or part time – they are not making a significant dent in the number of unemployed young people.
In the current labour market, a tertiary education is the ‘silver bullet’ that vastly improves the employment prospects of young people. Any school-leaver capable of successfully studying at a university or college should be publicly or privately assisted to do so. However, we can’t rely on this alone.
Our current set of choices severely disadvantages young South Africans. It is time to look at other options to enable and encourage employers to bring young people into the world of work in large, affordable and sustainable numbers. This choice requires a vote for high levels of growth, much more flexible hiring and firing policies, far fewer obstacles to employment and a much better education and training system.