Workers advertise their skills looking for work outside a hardware store in a Johannesburg suburb. Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator builds African solutions to tackle the global challenge of youth unemployment. Photo: Denis Farrell/AP
Workers advertise their skills looking for work outside a hardware store in a Johannesburg suburb. Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator builds African solutions to tackle the global challenge of youth unemployment. Photo: Denis Farrell/AP

The real costs of finding work for young people

By Sizwe Dlamini Time of article published Mar 4, 2020

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CAPE TOWN – The Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, accompanied by his Deputy Minister, Boitumelo Moloi, will be visiting the Eastern Cape Province on the March 6 and 7 with the aim to assist with economic transformation in the Buffalo City Metropolitan and Chris Hani District Municipality.

The Minister’s visit commences with a Stakeholder Breakfast Session where he will be engaging with employers in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality engaging on ways in which employers and the Department can work hand-in-hand to unblock employment opportunities.

The official unemployment rate in South Africa is reportedly at 29.1 percent, as per the last Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey. 

While the private sector and the government have repeatedly been called upon to work towards reducing the unemployment rate one has to consider the real costs of finding work for young people.

Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator builds African solutions to tackle the global challenge of youth unemployment. It partners with governments, businesses, young people and many others who are committed to deliver results that can work at scale.

Lebo Nke, Executive for Partnerships at Harambee shares her views. All stats and numbers quoted are based on Harambee research and are current in the past six months.

Transport costs

  • The cost of work-seeking is high based on an accumulation of transport, data, airtime, printing and sometimes application fees.
  • Transport is one of the biggest barriers facing young people looking for employment. According to Harambee’s research, if people have to take more than one taxi to work, their chances of staying in the job are greatly reduced.
  • From the recently published Siyakha Youth Assets Study which Harambee participated in (https://www.uj.ac.za/faculties/humanities/csda/Documents/Siyakha%20Report%20June%202019%20Web%20LowRes.pdf) they found that the average monthly spend on transport for work seeking was R280 per month. Considering that a child support grant is currently at R460 a month, this is more than half the grant amount. Candidates in this study were reporting that cumulative work seeking (printing / transport / data / fees) were costing them on average R325 a month. Work seeking is expensive. Candidates often borrow this money from others in their household, but it causes household strain.
  • Overwhelmingly, these costs are covered via loans from household members (47% reported having used this source of funding). Family members outside the household were called on for help by 9% of respondents, and 6.2% indicated using their own savings.
  • At Harambee our matching criteria is weighted on a person’s location so they’re not more than “one taxi ride away” from the job, especially as an entry level work-seeker earning minimum wage of R3500 a month. 
  • Most of our candidates use taxis as their primary mode of transport, followed by bus and then train.
  • In terms of cost by mode, our candidates reported that train was the cheapest followed by bus, then taxi. Taking a private car is the most expensive mode of transport for our candidates.
  • Data and airtime costs 
  • Our research shows that extremely high mobile and data costs are a barrier for work-seekers when looking for work and can be exacerbated by platforms and apps that are data heavy. Disadvantaged youth lack access to information because they simply can’t afford the high costs of data.
  • Our research indicates that an average of R200 is spent on internet costs and printing.
  • Other costs cited include internet cafes, printing of CVs, and sometimes being forced to pay application fees to be considered for work opportunities.

Hidden costs

  • Young women are less likely than young men to have a driver’s license, which can impact their ability to get a first job. In a 2019 survey of over 300,000 young people, young men were 5-6 times more likely to have a driver’s license than young women. For a growing number of entry-level jobs, having a driver’s license is a key requirement of employers and therefore excludes many young women from these job opportunities. 
  • Other large cost categories include application fees.

The benefit of household income

  • According to Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator’s Breaking Barriers Quarterly Report: "Access to any household income improves the probability of long-lasting employment by almost 50% because there is funding for the high costs of work-seeking."

How employers can assist

  • Employers can help first time employees with a transport stipend in their first month of employment to given them a chance to settle into earning a salary and budgeting for expenses. This can be worked back at a later stage but it’s a small gesture to help ease the huge financial burden first time work-seekers face.

Harambee’s platform puts the user as the centre

  • Our mobisite (www.harambee.mobi) is where young people can find out more about Harambee, register to join our network, and keep their profile up to date. It has been designed to be as simple and as cost-lite as possible and pushes the cost of engagement to our call centre rather than the youth.

BUSINESS REPORT

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