Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) announced on Tuesday that the country’s unemployment rate rose to 27.6% of the labour force in the first quarter of 2019.
Stats SA further said it is the youth aged 15–24 years who are the most vulnerable in the South African labour market, as the unemployment rate among this age group was 55,2% in the 1st quarter of 2019.
“Among graduates in this age group, the unemployment rate was 31,0% during this period compared to 19,5% in the 4th quarter of 201,” the statistics agency said.
The agency also announced that:
- 63,4% of the total number of unemployed persons are between the ages of 15 – 34.
- Almost 4 in every 10 young people in the labour force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2019.
- Just under 30% of the youth have jobs and about half of them (48,8%) participate in the labour market.
ANC Youth League (ANCYL) secretary general Njabulo Nzuza said the issue of unemployment among young people has, for quite some time, been a concern for the league, which has proposals to address the scourge.
One of those proposals is the scrapping of the entry-level job experience requirement, which the government is already implementing, Nzuza said.
However, he said this would only allow young people to access jobs rather than create more of them.
The second proposal “is the issue of beneficiation”, Nzuza said, explaining that the country should move from exporting natural resources to instead export more finished products. This, he said, would lead to more manufacturing plants being opened in the country and subsequently to job creation.
Nzuza said the government should fund young people’s innovative ideas so they can start up their own small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs), which would also lead to job creation.
Focusing on the fourth industrial revolution and being the lead innovators during this era is another plan to address the scourge of youth unemployment, Nzuza said.
Legislation that would ensure that employers in the country do not overlook local youth and employ undocumented foreign nationals, whom they take advantage of by paying meagre wages, is also required, Nzuza said.
These laws would also protect documented foreign nationals employed in South Africa because it would ensure they are paid wages that are in accordance with legislation, he added.
“We are not saying foreign nationals are not welcome in South Africa, they are, they must be documented,” Nzuza said.
Free quality education, in particular for young people in the townships and rural areas, as well as training, are key to upskilling the country’s youth and addressing unemployment among this group, Nzuza said.
Furthermore, there is a need to ease the legislation for starting up SMMEs so that young people can do so with no hassle, Nzuza added.
DA national youth leader Luyolo Mphithi said the statistics show that “unemployment is killing us as young people”, in particular, those in the rural areas who cannot access and participate in the economy, adding that the figures are “disturbing” and “tiring”.
Mphithi questioned what had become of the resolutions taken at last year’s jobs summit.
The DA has proposed a yearlong programme that would focus on upskilling the country’s matriculants or secondary school leavers.
The first six months of the programme would focus on teaching young people various skills because there is a need to “prioritise skills development” in the country, Mphithi said.
During the second half of the programme young people would be given an opportunity to put these skills to use so they can gain experience, he added.
Another plan to address this issues is the DA’s ‘jobs act’, Mphithi said, which advocates for the protection and support of SMMEs by ensuring greater flexibility in the labour market. This would take place through minimum wage exemption for businesses that fall into certain classifications. Mphithi says this will guarantee that the doors of thousands of small businesses remain open and that thousands of jobs are protected.
The president of the EFF student command, Peter Keetse, said the structure of the South African economy does not allow young people to participate in it.
Keetse said it is concerning that leading to the election the focus had been on “sloganeering”, making promises about creating jobs, but soon after the votes were cast the attention has been diverted elsewhere.
The industrialisation of the South African economy so that more young people are absorbed into it is one of the suggestions made by the EFF student command president.
Keetse said the party would continue to advocate for quality education, because a failure to take this seriously would not see a reduction in the unemployment rate.
Reducing the number of imported products, in particular those that can be produced in South Africa, is another proposal Keetse mentioned.
The country should focus on the fourth industrial revolution and ensure young people take part in it and become entrepreneurs during this phase so that jobs are created, he said.