“The youth are the fastest-growing age group in the country, and have in recent years continued to grow as a proportion of the total population,” Dlamini said in a speech prepared for delivery.
“This trend creates the prospect for a so-called ‘Demographic Dividend’, in which resources can be invested into activities that promote social and economic development, and growth.”
Dlamini was speaking at the release of the 2014 State of the World Youth Population Report in Pretoria.
The report, titled “The Power of 1.8 Billion: adolescents, youth and the transformation of the future”, reflects on the latest youth trends and statistics worldwide.
According to the mid-year population estimates by Statistics SA, two thirds of the country’s population is younger than 35. The youth, those aged between 15 and 35, comprise almost 40 percent of the total population.
The report focuses on issues that affect the youth worldwide, including economic participation and unemployment, education, poverty, the digital divide, sexual and reproductive health, and gender equality.
As the population report “strongly advocates for investment in young people,” several policy interventions had been put in place to combat youth unemployment,” she said.
“Youth unemployment in South Africa is estimated to be 36.1 percent, which is significantly higher than adult unemployment at 15.6 percent.
“The government has recognised the problem of poor economic participation of young people and has put in place numerous policy interventions geared towards bringing youth into the mainstream of the economy to enhance social inclusion and cohesion.”
As part of the initiatives, Treasury and the labour department had introduced youth unemployment policy options to encourage entities to employ young people.
The economic development department had introduced a short-to-medium term strategy which aimed to provide the youth with income and opportunities, and encouraged community service, to allow for entry into the economic mainstream.
Opportunities to raise the share of youth-owned businesses were being explored.
The youth should also optimise educational opportunities in order to become employable, said Dlamini.