'The dream of meaningful employment feels distant’

In the lengthening shadows, South Africans stand tall, their determination unwavering as they brave the queues to cast their votes on May 29, 2024. Picture: Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

In the lengthening shadows, South Africans stand tall, their determination unwavering as they brave the queues to cast their votes on May 29, 2024. Picture: Henk Kruger/Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 14, 2024


Zarah Philander

As dust settles from this year’s elections, young South Africans find themselves at a crossroads, grappling with the harsh reality of a 45% youth unemployment rate, according to Statistics SA.

The voting booths, filled with the buzz of anticipation, left many young voters like myself with a mix of hope and frustration. We stepped into the booths with the weight of a nation’s promises on our shoulders, but the road ahead remains uncertain.

There was an emphasis on youth unemployment during the political party campaigns: every party seemed to recognise the urgency of getting young people into jobs.

But behind the bold promises and grandiose statements, many of us wondered if these were real solutions or just the usual empty rhetoric designed to win our votes.

I studied politics and sociology at UCT and am now diving into an LLB with Unisa.

I was born and raised in Salt River/ Woodstock, which I still call home. Living in Salt River has shaped who I am, and I’m inspired by the community’s strength and diversity.

I’m passionate about politics and social justice.

In my community, unemployment is more than just a statistic. It’s a harsh daily reality. Despite holding degrees and qualifications, many of my peers struggle to find stable, meaningful employment.

The jobs that are available often offer little in terms of security or fair compensation for our qualification level.

Personally, the journey to find a job has been fraught with challenges. Countless applications result in few responses and the relentless process can be demoralising. The financial pressure on families is immense and the dream of each family member contributing to alleviate this burden remains just that – a dream.

Unemployment is a critical issue, not just for us individually, but for our collective future.

The lack of opportunities hinders our ability to gain experience, build careers, and contribute meaningfully to the economy.

For many young South Africans, the aspiration is to find work that not only provides financial stability but also offers personal growth and fulfilment.

My dream, like many others, is to be in a role where I can make a difference and find a sense of purpose. My dream is to work on political campaigns and help earnest politicians get the exposure they deserve. I want to make a real difference in the political landscape, ensuring integrity and transparency shine through.

Zarah Philander

Given the current job market, the dream of meaningful employment feels distant.

Many of my friends and peers, while sceptical, still participated in the elections hoping that our collective voice could steer the country towards real change.

Post-election, my hope is that the new government will take concrete steps to address youth unemployment.

This means not only creating jobs, but ensuring these jobs are sustainable and provide fair wages. Investment in skills development and education aligned with market needs is crucial, as is support for entrepreneurship and small businesses, which are vital engines for job creation.

We, the youth, want to feel valued and see a future where our efforts and talents are recognised. It’s imperative that our leaders understand our struggles and are committed to making tangible changes.

The path ahead is undoubtedly challenging, but with focused effort and genuine commitment, a more hopeful and prosperous future for South Africa’s youth is within reach.

Cape Times