Sitting at a staggering 35.3%, unemployment in South Africa, according to Stats SA, is the highest it has been since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey in 2008. Youth unemployment carries the bulk of the burden with unemployment rate amongst those aged 15 to 24 at 64.4% and 42.9% amongst those between the ages 25 and 34.
During a recent study conducted by The Global Economy where youth unemployment was measured across 181 countries globally, with an unemployment rate of 66.5%, South Africa was ranked second highest in the world for youth unemployment. As we commemorate youth month, we are beckoned to contemplate on what kind of future is foreseeable for our country when almost one in every two youths aged 15 – 34 years is unemployed.
As representatives of the country’s future, these dire circumstances for our country’s youth are worrisome. Due to their innate energy and enthusiasm, young people should be on the forefront of nation building and social and economic reform. Yet, in the current economic climate they are not even seated at the table.
As Dr. Anita Cloete of the Department Practical Theology & Missiology at the University of Stellenbosch articulates, due to the serious economic and social consequences, the impact of youth unemployment is fundamentally felt by the broader society. Notable consequences include economic welfare and production disruptions, loss of human capital, social exclusion, and crime.
Even more concerning is the constant rise in educated unemployment as this could lead to the notion that education is useless and not important. The result is that young people become pessimistic about the future and live only to fulfill their present desires. Against this background, these youths become even less interested in contributing to the country’s welfare, no less their own.
Earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged to recruit 10 000 unemployed young people for the digitisation of paper records at the Department of Home Affairs as well as provide a further 50 000 work opportunities in various sectors through the Social Employment Fund.
However, for as long as these and other government promises remain unrealised, young people continue to wallow in the slammer of unemployment while remaining a financial burden to their families, placing an even bigger strain on their family’s financial wellbeing.
Founder and Debt Counsellor at National Debt Advisors(NDA) Sebastien Alexanderson has noted with concern the devastating effect of youth unemployment on South African families. “It is a recipe for disaster as many households are still battling the adverse effects of Covid 19 on their finances. With a dwindling economy and skyrocketing living expenses, the ripple effect is likely over-indebtedness,” said Alexanderson.
In a bid to help curb the scourge of youth unemployment, NDA has rolled out a youth employment drive where young people aged between 18 and 34 years are recruited for call centre jobs on a regular basis. The candidates are trained on various professional skills within the debt counselling industry while earning a stipend to support themselves. They are also equipped with essential money management expertise to carry with them throughout their careers.
“As future leaders, young people should have a vested interest in turning the tide on any country’s social and economic ills. The biggest loss gained from youth unemployment is the despondent attitude that it creates amongst our young people. Nothing will ever change if young people do not become the agents of that change. Addressing youth unemployment develops a breeding ground for the development of ethical and socially responsive next-generation leaders who can contribute to building a better world,” said Alexanderson.