The DA marches to Cosatu in support of the youth wage subsidy. Photo: Reuters

Debate on the youth wage subsidy turned what usually is a sedate annual day at Parliament for youth from various provinces into a passionate affair as conflicting views were booed and applauded.

The annual event, where young delegates from around the country engage with Parliament on a variety of issues affecting the youth, turned into a broadside against the proposed youth wage subsidy.

The youth representatives sidelined all other issues on the agenda to debate this sole topic.

Although it was clear that very few representatives were in favour of such a subsidy, speakers wanted to express their own opinions on how much they opposed it, and why.

They said it was a fallacy that a subsidy for businesses that employ young people would create additional jobs and argued that instead, it would lead “greedy employers” to rotate temporary workers as soon as the subsidy term ended.

“What we should be talking about as an alternative to a youth wage subsidy is subsidising companies to open new operations in rural areas,” said Ntuthuko Makhombothi, the deputy president of the SA Student Congress at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

One student from UCT said he rejected the subsidy from a liberal standpoint.

The system was a quick fix that had been rejected in countries like Australia and he doubted South Africa’s ability to make it work.

Although DA chief whip Watty Watson said the party had no money available to transport it youth representatives to the event, some speakers agreed with the party that the subsidy was the way to go.

Two speakers from Cape Town said it was time South Africa did something to address the challenge of inexperienced graduates failing to find work. The lack of opportunity to gain experience was a contributing factor to the fact that 600 000 graduates were unemployed. They said the youth wage subsidy sought to do just that and at a lower cost than all other government interventions.

National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) chief executive Steven Ngubeni said the subsidy was too simple a solution, and the private sector should be footing the bill for training the youth, not the government.

An NYDA economist said the government should rather revive apprenticeships.

Eastern Cape delegates said the subsidy might help skilled individuals, but South Africa needed jobs for the unskilled.