ANALYSIS: Young people are leaving SA. Here's why

2019-04-28 15:00
(Photo: iStock)

(Photo: iStock)

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Earlier in April, President Cyril Ramaphosa during a public appearance in Stellenbosch said that young South Africans should not leave the country and that those who have already left should come back and contribute to growing South Africa.

It was a throwaway comment during question time but got picked up by the media and made headlines.

When asked whether white people had a future in the country, the president commented that the feeling among young people that they were not wanted in the country was simply not true.

"I don't want young white South Africans to leave the country. If I could, I would tie them to a tree," he said. "There is room for all of us to play a role."

Ramaphosa's comment touched a nerve. News24 asked young people to write to us on why they were leaving the country and what it would take for them to change their minds and the response was overwhelming. It was also in tune with the latest facts and figures about how and why people are leaving South Africa.

According to Statistics SA's most recent Community Survey conducted in 2016, altogether 97 460 South Africans had moved abroad since 2006, the majority of which were between the ages of 25 and 44. While there has been a longstanding narrative critical of white citizens emigrating, the Enterprise Observatory of South Africa (EOSA) estimates that the average number of black professionals leaving the country exceeds the number of white South Africans.

What are the reasons for young people deciding to leave the country? Jobs, education and safety make up a big part of the motivation.

In the past two years UK visa solutions firm Move Up has seen a 22% increase in enquiries to leave due to political uncertainty and economic decline.

"There is a percentage of migrations motivated by concerns of financial and educational stability. Few cases are motivated by concerns of security alone," Move Up managing director Ryan Rennison told City Press.

Many who drop out of school, automatically join the ranks of the 54% unemployed youth in the country. The lucky few, who by hook or by crook, manage to get an education, also struggle to find jobs. Young white South Africans are equally discouraged by the BBEEE regulations that in many cases explicitly bar them from being eligible for a position.

As Thlologelo Rampa, 25, who recently moved to Australia, says: "How do you expect me to stay in a country where I hold two degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand but was unemployed for three years?"

Or, as 24-year-old Matome Seketa, who has a Communications degree but is unemployed, writes: "I am an older brother to two boys who are looking up to me. I used to tell them that education will help us get out of poverty, but since I hold a degree and have nothing to show for it, I do not know what to say to them anymore… my tune now is that education will help us get out of this country to a better one where one's degree will be just enough to put meat on the table."

At the same time that emigration enquiries have gone up, youth activism has also increased significantly. Anecdotally known for their passivism, students across the country have illustrated the opposite, protesting for free higher education and successfully lobbying government to increase its 2018 education budget to R57bn to fund fee-free higher education over three years. They continue to protest against the poor administration of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), lack of affordable accommodation and untransformed campus spaces. All of which points to the fact that South Africa's youth are brimming with frustration.

With nearly stagnant economic growth and rising costs of living, it's no wonder they are thinking of leaving.

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  youth  |  youth unemployment  |  education
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