The unemployment rate among South Africa's youth stands at a staggering 66.5%. Many view education as a key tool in the battle against unemployment in the country.
However, of the 7,9 million unemployed individuals, as many as 51,6% had education levels below matric, followed by those with matric at 38,6%. Only 2,4% of unemployed persons were graduates, while 6,9% had other tertiary qualifications as their highest level of education.
In order to combat the high rates of youth unemployment, the South African government publishes a scarce skills list with jobs that are in high demand where a person will have increased chances of securing employment.
Education Expert Mary Metcalfe explained that the availability of the scarce skills list allows young people to align their studies to professions that require labour. She however acknowledge that the scarce skills will change over time.
She said, “Yes there are skills that you can say this is currently a scarce skill. Let me set about gaining the necessary qualifications and work experience to prepare me for that scary skill area but what's considered a scarce skill will change as work opportunities change in the economy”.
Metcalfe also cautions against assuming that certain degrees will not lead to jobs. She used the example of the popular Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy to illustrate her point.
She explained, “a BA with Philosophy for example may seem to be completely unrelated to any specific occupation, but the thinking skills, the ability to think through a problem may in fact for a young person, in the long run, be a better preparation for the changes that are ahead than something that may be a work opportunity that becomes outdated because of automation”.