Holistic Approaches And Multi-Party Collaboration Needed to Tackle Youth Unemployment



As South Africa marks Youth Month, the country grapples with a staggering youth unemployment rate, with approximately 45% of individuals aged between 15 and 34 jobless. Amidst these challenge, all eyes will be on the new administration and its plans to tackle youth unemployment. 



The African National Congress (ANC) failed to secure a majority in the recent elections, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to call for a government of national unity (GNU). Ramaphosa emphasised the necessity of multi-party collaboration to tackle the country's severe challenges, including job creation, economic growth, and service delivery.

Amidst the challenges of youth unemployment, the role and effectiveness of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) have come under scrutiny.

The NYDA aims to empower young people by advocating for their needs and creating opportunities for them. They promote youth development across various sectors and offer programmes to support young South Africans, including financial and business development initiatives specifically designed to help young entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent interview, Waseem Carrim, CEO of the NYDA, emphasised the need for a holistic approach to tackle youth unemployment. He noted that the agency's resources are limited, making up only about 1% of the government's annual expenditure on developmental work. Carrim explained that the NYDA alone cannot address youth unemployment and called for a broader conversation encompassing education, skills development, and private-sector involvement.

One of the key factors contributing to high youth unemployment, according to Carrim, is the lack of significant economic growth in South Africa. With over a decade of stagnant growth, the economy has struggled to create enough jobs to meet the needs of the growing youth population.

He also highlighted challenges within the education system, including high dropout rates and limited entrepreneurship opportunities, which contribute to youth unemployment. The strain on public services due to resource constraints makes it difficult to adequately support young people.

Addressing criticisms of the NYDA's effectiveness, Carrim acknowledged the need for a refreshed approach and the consolidation of youth programmes to avoid fragmentation. He emphasised the importance of longer-term employment programmes (12-24 months) to provide meaningful support and transition opportunities for young people.

Carrim expressed hope for a renewed vision for youth development under the incoming administration, calling for increased accountability and efficiency in the use of resources to better support young people in South Africa.

Krystal Duncan-Williams, Project Lead at YouthCapital, has urged South African politicians to prioritise youth unemployment. Speaking in the wake of the recent elections, she emphasised the need for a cohesive and practical strategy to address the nation’s high youth unemployment rates. Duncan-Williams stated that YouthCapital has been actively engaging with partners and communities over the past three months to develop a strategic approach focused on three primary objectives.

YouthCapital advocates for ensuring decent first work experiences for all young people through well-run, monitored, and evaluated public employment programmes. These programmes are essential in providing the initial work exposure needed to integrate young people into the labour market.

Duncan-Williams stressed the importance of equipping young people with 21st-century workplace skills, calling for industry-led skill development pathways to bridge the gap between government-led initiatives and labour market needs. Lastly, she emphasised that both formal and informal sectors must be strengthened to offer more entry points for young people into the labour market.

Duncan-Williams also warned against infighting within the coalition government, stressing the importance of prioritising the youth unemployment crisis amidst other significant issues such as healthcare and social grants.

Despite the severity of the youth unemployment crisis, Duncan-Williams noted a decline in political engagement among young people. She pointed out that political parties tend to cater to older voters who participate more actively in elections, neglecting the needs of the youth. She urged politicians to engage young people effectively and demonstrate the value of their vote to encourage greater political participation.

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