The official unemployment rate was 29.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019. Picture: KALHH/Pixabay
Durban - Simphiwe Mkhwanazi, 36, is an unemployed graduate who lives at home with his parents and works on the odd contract job to survive and provide for his two children.

Mkhwanazi holds a diploma in public management he obtained from Nambiti FET College in Ladysmith in 2018 in the hope that a three-year qualification would open doors to a job in a local government.

He has also completed several certificate courses, including in supply chain management and in environmental safety management, since matriculating in 2002. He is now studying a project management course.

His daughter matriculated in 2019 and he is worried about her future.

“I am very concerned because there are so many young people who have degrees and diplomas but can’t get a job, and the same situation might happen to her. It’s so hard. I am trying a lot (to look for work) but I fail. I think this year, by maybe June I will give up,” Mkhwanazi said.

Jevyne Maroun, 32, graduated with a BSc at the University of KwaZulu- Natal in 2012. He has given up searching for jobs in tourism.

“I went back to university to ask them what I needed to do and they said if the market can’t accept you, accept that and move on or study further,” Maroun said.

He said he was advised to do his Master’s degree and consider academia.

“I always kept subscriptions on job sites. I’d go look for jobs and put my CV on websites, and always had subscriptions to notify me when something came up, and then after three or four years, I gave up,” Maroun said.

He took jobs managing mechanical workshops and in the roofing industry.

Maroun is among South Africa’s 8.2 million unemployed young people aged 15 to 34, representing 40.1% of the 20.4 million youth population, according to the latest figures from Statistics SA in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey this week.

According to the survey, these young people are not in employment, education or training of any kind. The official unemployment rate was 29.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

In terms of graduate unemployment, PricewaterhouseCoopers economist Christie Viljoen said World Bank data indicated that 12% of workers with a tertiary education were unemployed in 2018. “This ranked South Africa 10th highest globally, not a good position.”

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2019 reflected a key challenge for the country’s unemployment problem: the lack of enough and appropriate skills.

The report ranked the workforce’s skills 101st out of 141 countries, in the bottom third of economies assessed.

“The skills of graduates are ranked 102nd out of 141 countries, and due to this, the ease of finding skilled employees rank 98th. Clearly there’s a view that graduates don’t have the skills required by business for people with a tertiary education,” Viljoen said.

However, on a positive note in terms of accepting the skills deficit of graduates and remedying the situation after employing them, Viljoen said the WEF ranked South Africa 40th out of 141 countries for staff training.

SA Graduate Development Association chief operations officer, Ronnie Midaka, said the solution was partly to extend one-year internship programmes to three years to enable graduates to obtain workplace experience required by potential employers.

Midaka said each province needed to audit the skills required in every sector, and government and the private sector should sync these needs with the types of graduates universities and colleges were producing.

He said there was a need for counsellors to educate school pupils on career options as most wanted to go to university. “We have to produce people aligned to the economic needs of the province,” Midaka said.

The Mercury