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Youth unemployment in SA has reached boiling point and has spurred heated political debates and violent mass protests.
Governments around the world have tried to react to the youth protests and the growing problem by implementing labour market policies such as subsidised wages, tax incentives and encouraging school-work transition through apprenticeships and training programmes.
However, the unemployment figures have continued to soar.
According to Nimo Naidoo of the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year competition, the rising levels of youth unemployment could be effectively curbed through the promotion of entrepreneurship as a viable career choice for young South Africans.
But that will require a change in SA’s public perception and culture.
Naidoo says the UN estimated last year that 74.8 million people between the ages of 15 and 24 remained unemployed worldwide, while 6.4 million young people dropped out of the labour force globally.
According to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, young people today are three times more likely be unemployed in comparison with adults, while one in five young working people lived on R8 a day. Naidoo says statistics released by the latest Labour Force Survey paint a dire picture for SA’s youth.
“Youth unemployment has increased by 9.9 percent since the last quarter and is now standing at a staggering 42 percent. The government has tried to absorb the high unemployment numbers through state programmes and has been actively promoting entrepreneurship in the hopes of reaching its goal of 5 million jobs created by 2020.
“However, according to Adcorp, a large discrepancy exists in the formal employment market. About 800 000 vacancies are available in the private sector, yet 600 000 university graduates remain unemployed,” Naidoo says.
“The 2011 South African GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) report, released last week, has also revealed a significant decline in entrepreneurial levels among South Africa’s youth.
“Entrepreneurship levels of people aged between 18 and 34 have declined significantly, by 16 percent, between 2010 and 2011.
“Evidence from the recently released GEM report shows that young entrepreneurs in SA chose self-employment out of necessity rather than being motivated by attractive opportunities.”
Naidoo says these statistics are worrying and are an indication of an unhealthy entrepreneurial culture in SA.
“The manner in which a country supports and recognises its entrepreneurs determines the culture of entrepreneurship and ultimately moulds the future of the economy.
“A positive entrepreneurial culture is not something that can be simply put in place. It begins at the roots of society and needs to be carefully nurtured,” Naidoo says.
She believes that the roots of SA’s entrepreneurial problem are linked to the country’s educational structures.
“Both SA’s formal and informal educational structures do not prepare the youth to become skilled entrepreneurs. Not only has the structure ill-equipped the youth to become entrepreneurs, but it has created a culture where young South Africans dream of becoming employees, rather than employers.”
She says that not all individuals possess the qualities to become an entrepreneur and, therefore, these qualities and talents need to be developed accordingly.
“Youth should be exposed to entrepreneurship via the South African education system, as well as leaders and managers of businesses where they work.”
As the business world continues to evolve rapidly, an increasing number of young entrepreneurs, such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, are emerging as successful entrepreneurs and outright market leaders in their respective industries.
Sanlam and Business Partners, the competition’s co-sponsors, would like to recognise the ability and deserved success of SA’s young entrepreneurs by encouraging them to enter the 2012 Sanlam/ Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year competition, which boasts an array of advantages for both finalists and winners.
l Entrepreneurs interested in entering can download entry forms online at www.eoy.co.za, as well as interact with fellow entrepreneurs and entrants on the competition’s social media accounts, @EOY_SA and www.facebook.com/eoy.sa.
The closing date for the competition is Saturday.