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Cry of the excluded: SA’s youth continue to bear the burden of unemployment

Supplied image.

Supplied image.

Published Jun 15, 2023


By the Alternative Information & Development Centre (AIDC)

Johannesburg - Young people have been at the forefront of various social and political movements throughout history.

They have been using their voices and mobilising their peers to advocate for important causes, such as human rights, environmental sustainability, racial equality, and gender justice. Forty-seven years ago, the South African youth revolted against the unjust policies of the apartheid government, especially the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools across the country. Today we are reflecting on and paying homage to their courage in standing up against an unjust system.

Earlier this year, we launched the Year of Mass Action campaign aimed at uniting South Africans, the working class, employed and unemployed, to demand tangible solutions to our current economic crisis. This Youth Day, we amplify our call to young people. By organising protests, lobbying policymakers, and raising awareness through social media and other platforms, young people can bring attention to critical issues and push for positive change.

The South African government continues to fail to deliver on its promise of a better life for all. Neoliberal policies and systematic corruption are crippling the country and ordinary South Africans are suffering, and young people are the hardest hit. It is unacceptable that 29 years into our democracy, South Africa is struggling with the highest unemployment rate, with more than 4.9 million young people struggling to find sustainable employment. Due to this, most young people are excluded from enjoying the fruits of our democracy.

High levels of unemployment exacerbate existing disparities and create social divisions leading to negative social and economic consequences, such as increased poverty, crime rates, and social unrest just like we witnessed with the July 2021 riots. The government’s austerity agenda is also negatively affecting South Africans.

We call on young people to join the Year of Mass Action campaign to demand:

An end to budget cuts that hurt the Xcluded: Cutting the budget in a time of economic stagnation will destroy the very tools and resources we need to jump-start the economy. This requires a huge mobilisation of state resources that will pump life back into our economy.

We call on the government to “fix Eskom”: We reject and condemn all those who wish to privatise Eskom and who welcome its death spiral. We demand a new transparent and accountable Eskom, free from corruption, that moves to generate 100% renewable energy at the cheapest possible price. Many more households should be provided with Free Basic Electricity as well.

A Basic Income Grant of R1 500 per month for all unemployed and precarious workers who earn below the national minimum wage: People are starving and without food. To end this, the state should look to progressively introduce an unconditional universal basic income grant. This basic income grant would boost the economy, creating demand for products and services, thus creating many jobs.

Invest in job-creating alternatives: Develop a low-carbon re-industrialisation programme that can create millions of jobs aimed at addressing climate change. Here we can invest in public energy, public transport, housing, and transforming agriculture. This includes the production of socially owned renewable energy and the manufacturing of solar PV and wind infrastructure. The government has failed to produce sustainable job creation programmes and it should look at alternative ideas including incorporating the Right2Work in the Constitution. When we demand jobs, we are not referring to precarious work, we demand decent work, where workers have security, stability, and dignity. The impact of precarious work on workers is significant. It leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation, and it makes it difficult for them to plan for their future and make ends meet.

Tax the rich: Millions of South Africans go to bed hungry each week, while the rich siphon billions of rand to tax safe havens through profit shifting and wage evasion. Research has shown that halting profit shifting by transnational corporations would help to raise more than R100 billion in revenue each year. We also know that a small net wealth tax on the top 1% could raise more than R140bn annually. This is not even mentioning the billions lost to corruption each year. Hence, we call on the government to stop the looting and to tax the rich to address the deep inequalities and hunger in our country.

On Youth Day, we will hold speak-outs, teach-ins, protests and demonstrations. We want to create awareness and channel the anger of our people to where it belongs. Leading up to the 2024 national elections, we encourage young people to engage in political discourse, mobilise communities and create platforms that facilitate greater transparency, citizen engagement, and government accountability.

As the Cry of the Xcluded, we know that young people can contribute significantly to deepening democracy and shaping a better future for the country by actively participating, advocating for important causes, utilising technology, building communities, demanding representation, and promoting education and awareness.