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As South Africa marks Youth Day, questions have arisen regarding the continued high level of youth unemployment in the country.

The United Association of SA (Uasa), one of several unions affiliated to the Federation of Trade Unions of South Africa (Fedusa), explained that despite the downgrade to junk status and the country’s nosedive towards a full-blown recession, there are additional reasons why so many young people remain unemployed.

“Older South Africans grew up in a world where they and their parents worked for huge parastatals like the railways, Iscor and Armscor,” said Uasa spokesperson Andre Venter.

“It was quite normal for employees to stay at one company for 35, 40 years or longer, while taking advantage of great medical aid and pension benefits.

“After the worldwide recession in 2008, the picture changed considerably - young people no longer find permanent employment as a matter of fact, and the benefits were greatly reduced,” he said.

Statistics show that in South Africa, the situation is no better, and even worse than many other places.

“Some figures peg youth unemployment for job seekers between 18 and 24 years old as high as 48%.

“This means almost one out of two are unemployed,” Venter explained.

According to research by entry-level employment recruiters Lulaway, there is a surplus of entry-level jobs at any given time, and there are not enough strategic resources which are dedicated to ensuring job longevity.

“The research shows that younger employees have the poorest job longevity, and as they have minimal financial responsibilities, they lack the resilience to push through the initial challenges of entry-level employment, which tends to be menial, physically gruelling and offers little return.

“They complete their tertiary studies with the expectation of a well-paid job and don’t understand you must start at the bottom and work your way up,” he emphasised.

Venter said although hard work and talent were quickly noticed, one needed work experience, no matter how menial and low-paying the job was initially.

Initiatives have been rolled out to mentor young people in entry-level employment and to encourage them to persist. Venter stressed to ensure employment over the next decade or so, school leavers must give their chosen careers serious thought.

“A quick internet search shows predictions are that by 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have brought us advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics that will transform the way we live and work.

“Some jobs will disappear, others will grow and jobs that don’t exist today will become commonplace,” he said.

“The youth unemployment question can only be solved when South Africa has a decent leadership corps in place and we, as citizens, learn to work together,” Venter added.