How lack of jobs affects SA youth

2013-01-06 10:00

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Joblessness is forcing millions of young South Africans into a perpetual adolescence, a new study has found.

A study of this by the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) was conducted late last year and aimed to find out how young South Africans cope with unemployment and look for jobs.

It found that thousands of young people prefer to stay at home without work rather than take up menial jobs.

A number of researchers working in different parts of the country put the report together for the CDE.

Dr Hylton White, senior lecturer in social anthropology at Wits University, conducted intensive research in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

White’s research revealed that young people do not regard a job as a means to very basic subsistence.

“If jobs will not provide the means required to getting married and building a home, then many men are not very interested in either seeking or keeping such jobs,” he wrote in the study.

“Hence the otherwise counter- intuitive phenomenon of young men walking away from low-paid jobs despite the mass unemployment surrounding them in their communities.

“If patterns of life in KwaZulu-Natal are any indication, there are millions of young South Africans literally waiting for their lives to begin.”

It’s a bleak picture.

The study also reveals that a substantial number of young people who come from poor neighbourhoods, with bad schools and little support, and whose parents have also never worked, are most likely to spend their entire lives unemployed.

It says in the report: “They have little, if any, access to social networks that could link them to job opportunities with their contemporaries, and their parents are likely to have been unemployed themselves for substantial periods of time.

“A growing number of young people are living in environments of multigenerational unemployment. As a result, the young people who find themselves in these situations are becoming increasingly resigned to never finding a job.”

In Cape Town, Jeremy Seekings, professor of political studies and sociology at the University of Cape Town, found that networks and connections played a critical role in helping young people get jobs.

His work reveals that in the Cape metro, urban privileged young people, called “insiders” – who are predominantly, but not exclusively, white – almost always used their connections to secure jobs while studying.

Respondents from informal settlements were “outsiders”, many of whom had not finished their secondary schooling and who lacked the connections needed to seek and get jobs.

“If they find work, they often struggle to retain it, and if they lose it they struggle to find new employment,” Seekings wrote.

One of the biggest challenges facing the “outsiders”, Seekings found, was their lack of a work ethic and their lack of understanding of the labour market.

“Among young people in poor neighbourhoods who had left school without matric and were either looking for work or said that they wanted work, a large majority said they would not take a job as a domestic worker at a wage of approximately R900 per month, but almost all would take higher-paid jobs.

“It seems that outsiders may be pricing themselves out of the kinds of jobs that they are most likely to get.”

The study concludes that government policies meant to emancipate the youth over the past two decades have had little or no effect. According to the latest Stats SA figures, released in the second quarter of 2012, 1.3?million people aged between 15 and 24 were unemployed.

Another 1.9?million between the ages of 25 and 34 were also jobless, taking the figure of all unemployed young people in the country to 3.2?million.

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