The government and business sector needed to re-examine their priorities and move away from ad hoc interventions in failing systems and ’boutique projects’ that could not deliver anything that was really transformational, according to Centre for Development and Enterprise executive director Ann Bernstein. Picture: Matthews Baloyi
The government and business sector needed to re-examine their priorities and move away from ad hoc interventions in failing systems and ’boutique projects’ that could not deliver anything that was really transformational, according to Centre for Development and Enterprise executive director Ann Bernstein. Picture: Matthews Baloyi

SA needs decisive action to tackle employment, education, training crisis – CDE

By Given Majola Time of article published Sep 30, 2021

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THE GOVERNMENT and business sector needed to re-examine their priorities and move away from ad hoc interventions in failing systems and “boutique projects” that could not deliver anything that was really transformational, according to Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) executive director Ann Bernstein.

Launching a new report yesterday, Bernstein called for decisive action to tackle South Africa’s crisis in employment, education or training (NEET).

“There are now 9.1 million people between 15 and 34 years of age who are not in employment, education or training,” she said.

“Government’s focus on projects, special initiatives, summits and talk shops is the wrong priority. They divert resources and leadership from absolutely essential reform which is the only way to start tackling the scale of South Africa’s youth challenge.”

The CDE said it supported Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana’s call to get most young people into employment rather than having them become dependent on something like a basic income grant. Bernstein said jobs were the first step to individual empowerment and independence.

CDE research included fieldwork in Alexandra and Bushbuckridge.

CDE’s research director, Dr Stefan Schirmer said youth centres provided internet access and computer training, but could not demonstrate any decisive impact in linking youth to relevant training and employment opportunities.

According to the report, the current interventions were not addressing the scale of the problem. This was despite there being many governmental and NGOs engaged in tackling the NEETs crisis. While the most successful ones helped thousands of young people, despite all the good they have achieved, they had not begun to transform the circumstances underpinning the current crisis. The report said something more was required than well-intentioned projects that provided assistance, often in the short term, to young people.

According to the report, not all NEETs were disconnected from the world of work in the same way as this concept covered a broad range of people. Graduates were the least disconnected of all NEETs as they constituted only 7.4 percent of all NEETs and were more than two and a half times as likely as non-graduates to find jobs. Graduates, though facing a level of unemployment that, at 19 percent, was higher than desirable, had much better prospects in the labour market.

By contrast, 44 percent of NEETs only had matric, and young people without matric faced the toughest obstacles. The close to 5 million NEETs who did not obtain a matric were most likely to be stuck in unemployment for longer. They were frequently excluded from even applying for basic employment opportunities, as well as from most forms of training. Many of them experienced this as a personal failure, which destroys their self-esteem.

The CDE said consequently interventions that focused on ways to help them get matric would be positive and important for some of the most disadvantaged young people in South Africa.

Young people in townships and rural areas were mostly physically disconnected from the modern, formal economy. Rural youth were found to be 21 percent more likely to be NEET compared with youth who live in cities. Many of them had given up looking for work. At the same time, many township youth found themselves located on the outskirts of sprawling metros and therefore remained physically disconnected from centres of economic activity.

The close to 5 million NEETs who did not obtain matric were most likely to be stuck in unemployment for longer, the report found. Picture COURTNEY AFRICA

However, even in a centrally located area like Alexandra, young people’s understanding of the world of work outside the township was said to be severely limited with many stuck in a kind of geographic bubble, where they may find occasional work and participate in short training courses, but never escaped the circumstances that trapped them in poverty. “Consequently, improving access to valuable information about opportunities around and beyond their communities could, at the very least, somewhat reduce the extent of young people’s disadvantage.”

Three-fifths, or 60 percent, of economically inactive NEETs are women who were also likely to be stuck in NEET status for longer periods than men, despite being more qualified on average. Having children also reduced attachment to the labour market for them.

In its recommendations, the report suggested that the best method of getting more employment was through fostering an economy in which employment-generating firms multiplied and expanded as fast as possible. It said it was vital to reduce the barriers on investment and entrepreneurship in as many spheres as possible and across all firm sizes.

In terms of reforms that would have an impact most immediately on the position of young people, CDE believes tackling the labour market constraints on hiring young people by lowering the costs of employing them among others.

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