Guest Column

Our young people are hungry for opportunity

2018-05-31 16:38
Unemployment is one of major challenges affecting the youth. (File)

Unemployment is one of major challenges affecting the youth. (File)

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Mmusi Maimane

Four times a year, South Africans hold their breath as StatsSA releases the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) which provides the actual figures and data as to how many South Africans have a job, and how many South Africans do not have a job.

This month, the latest QLFS told us that in the first quarter of 2018, 250 000 more South Africans – mainly young and black – joined the ranks of the unemployed. This brings the total number of jobless South Africans to a record high 9.5 million.

These 9.5 million individuals, with their own stories and hardships, are who the DA is fighting for – South Africans who have yet to taste true freedom despite the ANC being in government for almost a quarter of a century. Two thirds of the unemployed are young people, and this is undoubtedly our most pressing challenge – to create job opportunities for young South Africans.

Yesterday I visited a labour centre in Johannesburg CBD. Housed in a multi-storey building on Commissioner Street, this was once the biggest labour centre in the country – serving thousands of jobseekers. Today its doors have been shut for almost three years. When questions were asked, we were told it has been closed due to "health and safety" risks.

One of the central purposes of labour centres is to act as a "middleman" between jobseekers and potential employees. However, the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, confirmed that successful placement of jobseekers has been slashed in half over the past two years – from 40 000 in 2015/16 to just 20 000 last year.

This is because these labour centres are understaffed, undertrained, dilapidated and fail to provide services to unemployed South Africans. This is exacerbated by a stagnant and underperforming economy which is not growing fast enough to absorb both new and existing jobseekers.

What makes this of serious concern is that President Cyril Ramaphosa plans to pilot the new Youth Employment Service (YES) programme in these existing labour centres. A plan that has been lauded by many, but what appears to be a plan doomed to fail. At the rate of only 20 000 successful placements a year, it will take 50 years to place 1 million young people in job opportunities.

This won't even make a dent in our youth unemployment rate. If we are going to tackle youth unemployment, we are going to require new ideas, and fresh faces to deliver on those ideas. Currently, there is a serious lack of young voices in this government. The president cannot expect young people to believe their best interests are paramount when his cabinet looks like a retirement home.

Our young people are hungry for opportunity. The DA has real, serious and implementable ideas to empower young people, including:

  • Introducing a Jobseekers' Allowance with a timeframe for all unemployed young people aged 18-34 who do not have a job;
  • Rolling out a National Job Centres project where unemployed people can access job opportunities (including learnerships and apprenticeships) on a local database, get assistance in preparing job applications or receive employment counselling;
  • Upgrading the current Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) to a full Youth Wage Subsidy;
  • Introducing a National Civilian Service year to provide work experience for the approximately 78 443 unemployed matriculants (from the class of 2016 alone) to enter work-based training in the community healthcare, basic education or SAPS fields;
  • Adopting a City-led economic growth agenda, focusing on cities as the drivers of growth and job creation;
  • Amending B-BBEE legislation to include internships, bursaries, and funding of schools as legitimate empowerment; and
  • Reversing the blanket National Minimum Wage, which will block many young unemployed people from finding work, and will cost at least 700 000 jobs.

These interventions will begin to break down the barriers which young people face in accessing the economy, finding meaningful work, and bettering their own lives.

- Mmusi Maimane is the Leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA).

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Read more on:    da  |  mmusi maimane  |  unemployment


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