Youth can still change grim joblessness picture

Jobless youth may experience the negative effects of lacking a sense of belonging, feelings of loneliness, and social isolation, says the writer.

Jobless youth may experience the negative effects of lacking a sense of belonging, feelings of loneliness, and social isolation, says the writer.

Published Jun 28, 2024


Tonny Kambi Masha

In South Africa, young people have consistently played a prominent role in politics, starting with the establishment of groups that fought against apartheid to spearheading mass uprisings against apartheid institutions.

In spite of the significant contribution of young people in resisting governmental persecution, the situation, even after 30 years and the ambitious goals of the National Planning Commission, remains uncertain.

The government has implemented several national and provincial programmes aimed at addressing social exclusion, yet the youth in post-apartheid South Africa still face marginalisation, which is hindering their role as the future of the country.

Given that youth unemployment continues to be a persistent and important issue in South Africa, the exclusion undermines the concept of youth as the guardians and successors of a more promising future.

The South African economy operates on a stratified structure of inclusion and exclusion, where Africans occupy the lowest position in the social hierarchy.

Because of the country’s significant proletarianisation and historical experience of colonial land confiscation, repression, and coercive tactics, black women and men are compelled to engage in ultra-low pay, degrading and persistently unstable employment.

The impact of unemployment on young people is made worse by the length of time that they are unemployed.

Statistics indicate that the employment opportunities available to young people often include low wages, restricted legal and social protection, and unfavourable working conditions.

Therefore, even if they are employed, the kind of labour that the youth engage in varies. South Africa has taken 30 years to destroy the aspirations of the youth.

Jobless youth may experience the negative effects of lacking a sense of belonging, feelings of loneliness, and social isolation, says the writer.

In their community, most able-bodied and capable men and women are not working, while around two-thirds of the younger population are without employment.

Despite finding jobs, young people are unable to advance towards stable and enduring professions. These experiences might account for the increasing rates of disillusionment seen among young South Africans.

Presently in the country, there exists a significant disparity in statistics among the younger population, with high levels of unemployment prevalent among young women, the most economically disadvantaged groups, and those of African descent.

The aspirations of the younger generation, who are expected to shape the future of this nation, are gradually fading away. If left unattended, these issues can exacerbate societal malignancy and intensify feelings of discontent, perhaps resulting in acts of violence, social upheaval, and criminal activities such as armed robbery and kidnappings for ransom.

In addition, jobless young individuals may experience the negative effects of lacking a sense of belonging, feelings of loneliness, and social isolation. Consequently, people may experience stress which may have detrimental effects on their mental well-being and manifest as conditions such as anxiety, disorder, or depression.

Certain individuals may turn to participating in illegal or deceptive actions to generate money.

This may lead to an upsurge in activities such as prostitution, criminal behaviour, restlessness, higher chances of mental distress, increased suicides, alcohol addiction, drug abuse, the spread of Aids/HIV, school drop-out rates, and involvement in gambling.

South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Even when using wider criteria, the percentage has never been lower than 30%.

This has significantly contributed to the rapid increase in the Gini coefficient, establishing South Africa as a country characterised by both struggle and freedom and one of the most unequal countries in the world, according to several measurements.

A significant drawback of South Africa’s democratic system has been its inability to provide its youth with a tangible economic benefit. The prevalence of employment, which was even present throughout the oppressive apartheid regime, has become elusive in the current democratic era.

As South Africa enters its fourth decade of democracy, it confronts a multitude of intricate and interconnected difficulties that jeopardise the stability of the social structure and its management of economic growth and development.

From the above narratives, South Africa is not spared from the youth unemployment challenge. While this discussion highlights worrisome patterns, the overall outlook for the South African economy is not entirely bleak.

I offer two suggestions: First, seeing that the South African government has several interventions to promote youth entrepreneurship, young people need to tap into these interventions, create businesses to address local challenges and contribute to economic development. Since many are not taken seriously due to societal expectations, a culture of enterprise and family support is needed.

Second, I suggest that young people combat unemployment by participating in youth-led projects. These initiatives can help them achieve their goals and provide support in areas lacking proper procedures.

They can highlight their resilience, ability to bounce back, and their inner-willpower to overcome obstacles.

Furthermore, these projects will showcase the active involvement of young people in their situations, rather than their passivity.

Dr Masha is a leadership catalyst, a social realist and a youth enthusiast. He writes in his personal capacity.

Cape Times