South Africa’s youth unemployment problem: What we need to know

SA’s unemployment rates rise to near-record levels. Photo courtesy
SA’s unemployment rates rise to near-record levels.
Photo courtesy

By Motlalepula Mmesi

The critical proportions youth unemployment has reached amidst South Africa’s jobless economic growth calls for a mix of policy tools and levers to create opportunities for this demographic and to take advantage of new and neglected markets. A shift in focus toward fostering entrepreneurship among youths could be one of the most effective means to mitigate both unemployment and social affliction in disadvantaged communities in South Africa.

Youth unemployment in South Africa has reached critical proportions: it was measured at 53.6% in 2013, and in 2014, youth comprised 41.8% of the total national unemployment rate of 25.4%. Socio-economic inequality and inadequate education are two factors that drive such high unemployment rates; rates that disguise how the situation disproportionately affects black youths.(2) Youth unemployment is a chronic problem too, which dates back two decades under ANC leadership. Between 1995 and 1999, unemployment for high school graduates entering the job market jumped by 10 percentage points, from 28% to 38.4%,(3) and the youth unemployment rate was actually a shade higher in 2005 (48.4%) than it was amid the global financial crisis in 2009 (48.2%).