The Minister in the Presidency, Ms Nkoana-Mashabane; the Minister of Employment and Labour, Mr Thulas Nxesi; and the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Ms Thoko Didiza, appeared before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) recently for a briefing on the theme of government interventions towards addressing youth poverty and unemployment.

 Delivering his opening remarks, the Chairperson of the NCOP, Mr Amos Masondo, said that in the 27 years since the dawn of democracy, it was now more urgent than ever before to find working solutions to save many young South Africans from the threat of poverty and unemployment.

“Our unemployment rate is, as we speak, now among the highest in the world. We can no longer ignore it. We need a strategic collaboration that includes all partners or role players.” With this in mind, the NCOP decided to convene this ministerial briefing to find out what government is doing to address unemployment and poverty among young people.

“In spite of the noble goals of the National Development Plan, such as reducing unemployment from 25 per cent in 2010 to 20 per cent in 2015, then 14 per cent by 2020 and, ultimately, 6 percent by 2023, we have seen unemployment rise from 24 per cent to 29 per cent between 2010 and 2019, as the National Planning Commission indicated last year, and that, while poverty rates fell substantially over the 2000s, there has been no measured improvement since 2011.

“In June this year, Statistics (StatsSA) noted that the burden of unemployment is concentrated amongst the youth, as they account for 59.5 percent of the total number of unemployed persons, which stood at 32.6 per cent in the first quarter of this year. What makes the situation severe is that the unemployment rate amongst the youth is high, irrespective of education level, as StatsSA has found. This is confirmed by an assessment into the utilisation of the R350 Special Covid-19 SRD Grant which reveals that 70 percent of the applicants were below 34 years and had matric and higher as the highest level of education.”

Mr Masondo said globally, small and medium-sized enterprises accounted for at least 60 percent of jobs and also ensured the flow of money within communities. “It stands to reason therefore that given our context, township and rural economies possess the potential to grow and contribute immensely to the country’s economic growth, if properly supported. Notwithstanding previous attempts, there is a need to focus more on the revitalisation of our township and rural economies in order to turn things around” he said.

Addressing the ministerial briefing, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said: “Even before the coronavirus pandemic, youth unemployment was a growing and urgent crisis. Now in the aftermath of the devastating economic impact of the pandemic, unemployment is even higher than before. 63 percent, or almost two-thirds, of young South Africans are unemployed.

“These statistics are faces of millions of young people looking for ways to support themselves and their families and contribute meaningfully to society. Despite our massive investments into education, of the one million young children who start school every year, only 500 000 sit for their matric exams and the majority of the young people who are unemployed are those without a matric certificate.”

Ms Nkona-Mashabane emphasised that government interventions are informed by the National Development Plan (NDP) and outline development trajectory towards 2030. She told the NCOP delegates that President Cyril Ramaphosa has committed to addressing youth unemployment crisis, one of his foremost priorities of the sixth administration.

“Young people hold the key to transforming our economy, boosting growth and fostering creativity and innovation. They are essential to increasing productivity and improving the livelihoods of all South Africans.”

She informed the delegates to the NCOP that the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities supports the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention through the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).

Ms Nkoane-Mashabane listed some of the achievements her department has made.

The 1 000 youth-owned enterprises in the 100 days programme in collaboration with the Presidency and the Department of Small Business Development have been completed, despite the challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. This programme created 3 000 new jobs.

  • Supported 1 200 youth micro-enterprises through the Youth Micro Enterprise Relief Fund.

Approximately 20 000 young people received business management, training, work readiness training and life skills training in person and online.

Placed 6 000 young people in job opportunities.

Ms Nkona-Mashabane reported that the Department of Public Works appointed 1 800 young people in various programmes, including the Welisizwe Rural Bridges Programme. She said the Youth Employment Service, together with its corporate partners, is continuing to create work experiences for young black South Africans. It has created 55 000 work experiences to date, injecting R3.1 billion back into the economy directly through youth salaries.

She emphasised that young people are at the centre of economic recovery efforts and the government will do everything to support young people and meet their challenges with solutions by developing strong partnerships.

Zolani Majozi
9 September 2021