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Vultures hunting flies

12 February 2014, 18:34

The march by the DA to the ANC headquarters under the ruse of demanding ‘6 million real jobs’ raised instead fundamental issues that speak directly to the petty politics of the DA, its malign of Africans and its lack of commitment to bringing workable solutions to the table of addressing the crisis of youth unemployment.

The bedrock constituency of the DA, I believe, were part of the recent World Economic Forum held in Davos where intense discussions featured the global calamity of youth unemployment.

Part of the reports that were presented and discussed was the United Nation’s World Youth Report 2012 which notes; “With less experience and fewer skills than many adults, young people often encounter particular difficulty accessing work. The global youth unemployment rate, which has long exceeded that of other age groups, saw its largest annual increase on record in 2009; at its peak, 75.8 million young people were unemployed.” The point of the matter is that unemployment, and youth unemployment in particular, is at pandemic stage.

Both government and business leaders meeting at this meeting recognised that “high rates of youth unemployment represent both widespread personal misfortune for individuals and a lost opportunity for critical national and global economic development”.

Noting that the DA continues to represent business interests; one wonders if the demand for ‘6 million real jobs’ is realistic or a feat to emotionally blackmail young black voters. Could the DA be using young unemployed youths to sneer the ANC during the current (emotive) electioneering period? If this be true, I am afraid to guess what the DA thinks of young blacks in South Africa.

I was amused to discover that amongst the many solutions discussed at Davos was the role of business in addressing this crisis. Leaders agreed that “employers’ response to the youth employment challenge should be shaped by their own responsible self-interest in ensuring their firms’ long-term growth and innovation, and in securing their access to talent for emerging and future economic needs”.

I therefore marvel if we will, in the near future, hear/read of a DA march to Sandton, Rosebank, Durban or Cape Town to demand ‘6 million real jobs’ from captains of industry.

One Thero Satiloane (Business Leadership SA), attending the Davos meeting, said; “We have to stop pussyfooting around if we want to solve this problem… On the demand side, we must solve the problem of businesses that would rather poach employees from other companies than employ and train talented people who lack skills and work experience but could add value in the long term.”

We must be realistic to admit that South Africa has one of the worst youth-unemployment problems in the world. By some estimates, less than half the working-age population is employed, and the figures for those under 35 are even worse. Interestingly; youth unemployment (and unemployment in general) in this country is both unequal and racially defined. In the words of Satiloane we cannot ‘pussyfoot’ around an issue that has grabbed world attention. Neither can we allow our desperate youth be used as political pawns.

One of the interesting points to come out of the Davos meeting was a call for companies to stop just committing to the ideal. “We’ll hire another thousand interns” said Muhtar Kent (CEO of Coca Cola company) explaining the attitude of business in general. But, he added, business must lead an “action driven” agenda.

Members of the Global Agenda Council on Youth Unemployment at the same meeting, urged “leaders to move from discussing the issues to implementing solutions”. Clearly; the leaders at this forum recognized that time for demands or marches are over but the urgent task is to rally society towards “a collective approach” to address the systemic nature of the challenge.

It is only surprising that the DA would choose to chase lizards when crocodiles are against youth employment. Oh, by the way, the DA need not march because it is in bed with the very business sect that is yet to play ball.

The fact is that business has a fundamental contribution to make in tackling youth unemployment. They provide the job opportunities which enable young people to enter the labour market, and they can also engage with young people in other ways to help them prepare for work.

Overall, therefore, to petition the ruling party or government to employ young people seems unlikely to be the silver bullet in addressing youth unemployment. At best, it is a case of vultures hunting flies. There is of course a compelling moral case for business to do more to address youth unemployment.

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