As South Africa marks the 46th anniversary of the 16 June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, it is clear that there is little effort to promote youth development and empowerment. Youth unemployment rates in South Africa, currently at 66.70% and higher than the national average, are a cause for alarm. Seven out of every 10 young people cannot secure employment in South Africa.
Looking at the large numbers of unemployed graduates, the idea that education opens doors to employment and success does not hold.
The number of unemployed youth is high irrespective of education level. Many young people have lost hope of finding a job that matches their skillset or in the area they reside. It is also evident that the schooling system does not equip youth with the requisite skills needed to be absorbed into the South African workforce. The current economic system does not cater to young people.
Additionally, inequality and socio-economic injustice also contribute to the perpetual decline of the status of youth employment because they affect youth education, development and employment opportunities. Young people from poor families, with either one or both parents unemployed, are forced to drop out of school and find jobs to help sustain the household. In many cases, the only available jobs for such young people are exploitative, in precarious environments and do not pay living wages. As a consequence, young workers are disproportionately placed in jobs that are not unionised and where their rights are violated.
Participation in employment, education and training is vital for youth to find employment and achieve self-sufficiency.
The responsibility of job creation lies within the government and the corporate sector. There is a pressing need to create job opportunities within communities and increase the number of government-supported youth projects. The South African government should train and employ youth to fix potholes on roads; do electrical work; build houses for the community; and take care of the environment by planting trees and cleaning the streets. These opportunities will not only help to reduce youth unemployment but also restore dignity back to communities. Every South African has a right to live a dignified life.
Implementing a Basic Income Grant (BIG) will go a long way towards fuelling economic growth by allowing youth to be economically active citizens. With a Basic Income Grant, people can afford basic needs and pay for services; which essentially puts money back into the economy and stimulates growth. This grant could stimulate job creation and contribute substantially to the government’s fiscus, through tax systems. Above all, a BIG will restore dignity to the poor and working-class masses.
Above all, it is imperative that the right to work is enshrined in the constitution of South Africa so as to elevate the demand for youth employment. South Africa’s constitution is hailed as one of the best in the world yet it does not provide for the right to work. Having this right guaranteed by the constitution will place a bigger obligation on the state and corporations to create employment opportunities for young people.
Adequate measures must be taken to realise economic empowerment and self sufficiency for South African youth. The government must commit to seeing the younger generation thrive.
On the 16th of June, young members of Fight Inequality Alliance, South Africa will be attending the “Youth Parade for Justice and Change” from 9am CAT. They are calling for their government to: