A cultural burden

2013-06-19 10:00

As we celebrate the role of the youth in our nation, we need to recognise the significant social burden carried by young, black and working South Africans in today’s society

‘If you really want to understand the reality of our high unemployment levels, speak to young, working black professionals,” says Sinenhlanhla Nzama, a marketing actuary at insurance giant Old Mutual.

He also supports his extended family and is all too familiar with the expectations of unemployed family members of those who are said to have made it.

Nzama says most young black professionals, who in many cases are the first generation to have a stable job, are supporting parents and other family members with primary healthcare, education and housing costs. This is putting an immense financial strain on new income earners over and above other factors such as rising electricity and petrol prices.

The Old Mutual Savings & Investment Monitor found that 50% of the youth surveyed were struggling to make ends meet.

Santie Schindehutte, case mediation manager at the National Debt Mediation Association, says the association has found many working professionals in a similar situation as they are expected to step in to support immediate and extended families.

“This places not only a financial, but emotional responsibility on the shoulders of the income earner to provide finances even if they cannot afford to.

“In a lot of instances, they don’t want to let their family down and there is really no other income source to assist the family,” says Schindehutte, who adds that many of these individuals take the responsibility seriously and they believe not being able to help will affect their integrity in the family.

“We have had instances where consumers contemplate suicide as this will provide their remaining family with much-needed financial relief.”

Schindehutte explains that some of the other effects are low self-esteem, aggressive behaviour, substance abuse and depression, which results in the breakdown of relationships and poor performance at work.

Nzama says young black professionals are supporting their families not only financially, but emotionally. “When I visit home, I am surrounded by people who have an expectation that I can do something to help them.”

Family members will come to him and ask where they can find work or how they can start a small business.

“As working professionals, we may have more information, but we don’t have enough to really help,” says Nzama.

He says the need to help one’s family is not only an obligation but a realisation that if you are able to help a family member to obtain an education, they too can join the ranks of the employed and help one to carry the financial burden.

Nzama’s older brother, for example, supported him through his studies and once he was qualified and working, the two were able to support their mother by buying her a home.

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