The paucity of local research on youth unemployment is a key constraint to creating useful strategies, according to the Centre for Development Enterprise (CDE).

The policy research organisation said in a report released last week youth policies appeared to have limited effect.

“Government-led initiatives since 1994 have been marked by ambitious rhetoric, but they are seldom converted into practical youth-centred programmes.

“Even when programmes have been implemented, their impact has not been evaluated properly, making it impossible to differentiate between initiatives that work and should be strengthened, and initiatives that have little or no impact from which funding should be withdrawn,” the CDE said.

“Most importantly, while numerous youth agencies within government have proclaimed the importance of pressurising critical ministries into adopting a ‘youth focus’, there is no indication that such a process has happened or has had any discernible impact on the way education, employment or growth policies have been formulated.”

It says the levels of youth unemployment have worsened since the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis. Quoting from figures by Statistics SA, the report said in the second quarter of 2012, 1.3 million people aged between 15 and 24 were unemployed, as were 1.9 million people aged between 25 and 34.

“Thus, if we accept that ‘youth’ are all South Africans from the ages 15 to 34, then 3.2 million of the 9 million young people who are currently in the labour force were not working. Apart from the hardship this involves, there are long-term consequences for the delayed start of employment.

“Young people who cannot find work are losing out on opportunities to expand and strengthen their skills. They are also likely to be disconnected from a society that provides them with restricted opportunities.”

Much of this joblessness was the result of the dismal state of the education system. The unemployment rate for people who did not complete secondary school is more than three times higher than those who completed matric, while young people who have some tertiary education have a 100 percent better chance of finding employment than those with only matric.

The CDE said the central message from two workshops it held was that the entrenched problems many young people confront were legion and that it was difficult for individuals to overcome these on their own.

They have no clear idea how to look for available jobs, the report said.