Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Our jobless youth: what is to be done, South Africa?

By Opinion Time of article published Jun 6, 2021

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Pali Lehohla

CATS do not devour their kittens often, but when they do, you should know they made a very difficult decision to come to that conclusion and take that action.

Statistician-general Risenga Maluleke released the results of the first quarter labour force survey (QLFS) this week. Compared to 2008, the share of employment for the youth aged 15-34 proportionately and in absolute terms has been gutted in favour of their parents. The mother cat is devouring the kittens.

When I, as Statistician-general, made the point in 2016 that the current generation of the young was underperforming relative to their parents in education and employment outcomes, then-president Thabo Mbeki said we must be a strange nation. However, it should not be the fact of being strange, but rather what should be done, he concluded. However, the question of what should be done to change the situation still remains.

Scenarios matter. South Africa is not new to scenarios. Among these are the Shell 1992 Mont Fleur Scenarios, which broke the deadlock in negotiations, and particularly, the economic path; the Memories of the Future of 2003, which guided the second and third administration to change gear from Gear to Asgisa; the Future we Chose of 2008, which were sadly abandoned by all subsequent administrations; and now the Indlulamithi scenarios, which have not drawn the attention of the current administration.

Scenarios do matter even though not all decisions are made on the basis of scenario thinking. Among a number of monumental decisions that Madiba took, two major decisions, prior to the 1994 elections, bear counsel on our own ongoing crisis, policy hiatus and its consequent seismic negative effects that we witness daily.

First, this was on the assassination of Chris Hani, he decided on the date of the election and seized the agenda as a de facto president. Second, upon receiving the Mont Fleur Scenarios by Shell, Mandela made a decision – the deadlock, in the then-stalled negotiations on a post-apartheid political order, must be broken.

So, one commentator said Mont Fleur helped to shift the economic thinking of the ANC and to avert an economic disaster. This is what opened the path to Gear, a much contested and often maligned policy stance. Scenarios do matter.

Equally, Mbeki made a shift from Gear in 2004 after the Memories of the Future Scenarios were presented by the Policy Co-ordination and Advisory Services of the government. The president introduced Asgisa. For five years, South Africa had an annual average economic growth of 4.8 percent and unemployment dropped from 30 percent to 22 percent . Had South Africa continued on the path of Asgisa with a development-focused macro-economic framework, perhaps we would be on a different path today.

The results of the QLFS are telling on the importance of education to employment. Graduate unemployment is equal to white unemployment at around 9% . Black unemployment at 36 percent is four times that of white unemployment. So, education indeed matters.

As Ratshitanga argues, we are all for citizens’ contribution to development. But when Gift of the Givers has had to go and drill a borehole at a public mother-and-child hospital then the dysfunction of government has reached monumental and numbing proportions.

The president should spend time with the Statistician-general to understand the QLFS results. It says it all. The mother cat is devouring the kittens.

The Indlulamithi scenarios say to us we are in Gwara-gwara, which is a society in a false new dawn, a society of enclaves.

Is South Africa awake, listening and seeing? What is to be done?

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him at www.pie.org.za and @Palilj01

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites

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