Tens of thousands of young people braved the elements and queued at various venues to apply for jobs opened by the Gauteng provincial government on Friday, underscoring the growing number of unemployed young people who are jobless amid subdued economic growth.
The Gauteng government on Friday set up a Jobs Fair to open 8 000 opportunities for youth as part of commemorating the 47th anniversary of the Soweto uprising of June 16, 1976.
The jobs included those for drivers, receptionists, cleaners, artisans, construction managers, communication officers, health practitioners, agricultural advisers, engineers, and chief financial officers.
Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi said Youth Day was not for speeches but for boosting the provincial economy with massive opportunities, and not handouts.
According to Statistics SA, at least 4.9 million people aged 15 to 34 remain unemployed in South Africa as the labour force keeps growing with matriculants and graduates.
This number rises dramatically to 9.2 million people between the ages of 15 and 34 when put together those not in any form of employment, education or training (NEET).
South Africa’s economy has not been growing at the required rate to create enough jobs for the past 15 years.
This trend is expected to continue this year as the economy is forecast to grow just above 0% mainly because intensified load shedding inhibiting activity and investment.
Econometrix chief economist Dr Azar Jammine on Friday said that the youth unemployment crisis was being driven by a lack of adequate skills necessary to boost the economy.
“Unfortunately, South Africa is a country with an economy that is less conducive towards providing jobs to the youth, many of the more artisanal types of jobs like plumbing, electricians, motor mechanics, welders, and that kind of jobs,” Jammine said.
“We are being compelled to import a lot of those skills when there is a massive availability of unskilled labour that can be developed.”
As the country commemorated Youth Day, a number of organisations placed the blame for the plight of young people directly at the doorstep of government.
One of the critical factors identified for chronic youth unemployment was the lack of quality education and a lack of resources at the foundation phase and at the intermediate and higher education levels.
SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on Friday said a crisis had emerged that compromised quality of education, leading to 80% of learners being unable to read.
“Failure at this stage, unfortunately, sets learners on a path of multiple learning barriers in their learning journey that are acquired and not innate,” Vavi said.
“To ensure learners get quality education goes beyond the enshrinement of a right in a constitution; it requires the state with a different economic structure and the right fiscal framework to provide quality education.”
There is a growing population of graduates who are unemployed, including doctors, nurses and a number of young people with unusable qualifications due to a mismatch of skills and the labour market in the economy.
During his budget vote speech last month, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande set his department a target of creating 110 500 workplace-based learning opportunities, registering 149 000 learners in skills development programmes, 23 000 learners in artisanal programmes, 21 000 learners to study artisanal trades, 32 550 learners to complete learnerships, and 6 450 learners to complete internships.
Cosatu’s Young Workers’ Forum national secretary, Siyabonga Mkhize, called on the government to partner with the private sector to avert the growing skills deficit.
“We need to expand internship and artisanship programmes, as well as the Presidential Employment and Youth Employment programmes in both the public and private sectors to afford young people the chance to enter the labour market, earn a salary and acquire the necessary skills and experience to find permanent jobs,” Mkhize said.
“We need to extend the National Youth Development Agency’s (Nyda’s) mandate and programmes, in particular those that support youth entrepreneurship.”
The Youth Employment Service (Yes) programme has recently reached the milestone of 1 million job opportunities since it was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2019.
The Nyda has also been allocated a further R250 million for the 2023/2024 financial year for the national youth service programme, a component of the presidential employment initiative that is aimed at training young people through participation in community services.
However, the sentiment on the ground remained that the government continued to fail to deliver on its promise of a better life for all after 29 years in power.
But speaking during the official commemoration of Youth Day in the Free State, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, disputed claims that the government had failed the youth in the country.
“This government has made free education for young people even up to tertiary for poor people and for working class people. It’s free. During those days you wouldn’t go to these universities like UCT and Wits,” Dlamini Zuma said.
“Young people must take opportunities that exist, they must inform themselves, they must be organise. The exhibitions, there are lots of opportunities so to say they are forgotten is far from the truth.”