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Study tackles challenges of jobless youths

Johannesburg - None of the government’s plans to tackle youth development in the past 17 years has translated into programmes that educate and assist young people in finding jobs.

And youth organisations need to ensure that there are policy discussions in the departments of Economic Development, Education and Labour to help young people get jobs and access better education.

This is according to a study “Coping with Unemployment”, released by the Centre for Development Enterprises, a think tank.

The study looked at youth unemployment and its challenges.

It comes as the South African Youth Council discusses the National Youth Employment Accord with the National Economic Development and Labour council (Nedlac) and the Department of Economic Development.

The accord, which is currently a draft, is the latest government initiative to commit government, organised business and civil society to youth development.

Figures show that 3.2 million of the 9 million people between the ages of 15 to 34 are unemployed.

But according to the report, government-led initiatives – from the National Youth Development Forum in 1994 to the National Youth Service projects introduced in 2008 – have had little impact on the long-term employability of young people.

The programmes, said the report, have been marked with ambitious rhetoric that was repeated but was seldom converted into concrete youth-centred programmes.

“Even when programmes have been implemented, their impact is not clear, which prevents government from strengthening the initiatives that work,” states the report.

The report says young people from poor neighbourhoods with bad schools and little support have no idea how to look for the jobs that are available.

Quoted in the report is Gallup research conducted in 148 countries, where 27 percent of the world’s adults have jobs that pay a monthly salary. South Africa, by contrast, only has 18 percent of adults paid monthly. For the country to meet international standards it would mean 2.9 million adults would need to get jobs.

This, according to the study, should be the primary policy goal.

“Although achieving such an outcome will not be easy, it may be more realistic than the goal of ‘creating’, all at once, the many millions of jobs required to bring unemployment down to full employment levels,” says the report.

The centre’s Anthony Altbeker said that because South Africa was a young country it needed employment policies that focused on young people.

“We need young people who are more stable. There is global evidence that people are happier and more satisfied when they are employed,” he said.

Altbeker said unemployment affected young people disproportionately because there was a narrow gap between what a typical worker and a young person earned.

As a result, in the labour market employers preferred older and more experienced workers. “It [this preference] won’t go away but you need an economic and business environment that encourages employing young people,” he said.

Thulani Tshefuta, president of the South African Youth Council, is positive about the National Youth Employment Accord, which he said was a result of the collapse of negotiations on the youth wage subsidy.

There were 11 commitments in the accord that included improving education and skills development of the youth, raising the skills base of young people and supporting youth small, medium and micro enterprises and co-operatives.

The accord would also look at improving the Extended Public Works Programme, which was offered by the Department of Public Works and employed young people.

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