SA’s youth need an attitude adjustment

2012-05-19 12:03

The official criteria for South Africa’s definition of unemployment may ratify the International Labour Organisation’s definition, but it may be slightly misleading as one factor is not accounted for – attitude.

For the official unemployment rate, Statistics SA uses a definition in line with that of the International Labour Organisation. Within the economically active population, the unemployed include people who:

» Did not work during the seven days prior to being interviewed;

» Want to work and are available to start work within a week of being interviewed; and

» Have searched for employment or attempted a form of self-employment in the four weeks prior to the interview, unsuccessfully.

Perhaps, one may argue that attitude is accounted for in the second definition of unemployment, expanded unemployment, which only requires criterion one and two, and not three.

I differ, however.

I watched with great disappointment recently as a young male was being interviewed on the eNews bulletin, categorically stating that it would be unfair for him to sweep floors or clean toilets as he had passed his matric.

South Africa finds itself with a significant percentage of youth who have bestowed upon themselves a self-worth in the employment sector to which employers should bow down to.

This is the aspirations dilemma not only unique to South Africa.

A World Bank report, titled More and Better Jobs in South Asia and updated in February, spoke of a mismatch between job aspirations of youth out of the Sri Lankan education system entering the job market, with opportunities available to them in the economy.

Importantly, it also spoke of a stigma among certain types of work, both in urban and rural settings, that discouraged the youth from working.

Having owned a business for more than a decade, I have had the opportunity to employ and dismiss. Labour issues in this nation are perhaps the second major hurdle after navigating a business, especially in today’s tumultuous time.

I have had conversations with fellow business owners, associates and complete strangers.

And a common thought I have found has been that the unemployment statistics omit the aspirations dilemma.

I, personally, have yet to hear it debated publicly in government or relevant statutes.

Of those that fall within the official unemployment bracket, how many have declined employment offers because it did not “meet their criteria of employment” or found the job description “degrading” with regards to who they are and stigmatised certain work.

As South Africans, we seem to live in a society where one is seemingly judged more by what job they hold rather than the results from it.

In a conversation I had with Chris Hart, chief economist at Investment Solutions, he said: “A job-creating mechanism is essential, capitalised by household savings build-up.”

I agree. Savings is an attitude, one that enhances financial health and the wellbeing of South African citizens.

On the other hand, can we blame the youth?

We live in an instant gratification society, where the likes of government, for instance, through tenderpreneurship has instilled a culture where the youth see it unwarranted to exert oneself solidly and over time to reach a desired goal or result.

Making money has been trivialised, and crass materialism has set in, as a tender is easy money.

It is these kind of attitudes our youth need to change if unemployment is to be tackled. It is this conundrum we need to overcome.

The youth wage subsidy is not a silver bullet to tackle unemployment. A myriad of other solutions from the government and private sector will achieve this.

However, none of these efforts, no matter how significant, will get off the ground if the youth feel degraded by taking up certain employment.

» Ndlovu is a businessman from Ekurhuleni. Follow him on Twitter

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