Youth unemployment 'a ticking bomb'

2012-02-21 18:17

Johannesburg - Xolile Blessing Bam is passionate about computers. The 20-year-old studied IT at a business college in Johannesburg but he has not been able to find a job since.

To get some experience, and to keep himself busy, he volunteers as a teaching assistant at a local school in Soweto.

"I've tried looking for a job for a year-and-a-half now," Bam said. "The challenges are experience and the level of education which I have because I only have a certificate, not a diploma or degree."

7.5m unemployed

Bam's story is typical. Out of a population of 49m, 7.5m South Africans are out of work. Young people are worst affected, with over half of 18- to 25-year-olds unemployed.

According to Cosatu, there's no other middle income country in the world with such a high rate of unemployment.

"This is a crisis. We call it a ticking bomb," said Zwelinzima Vavi, Cosatu's general secretary. "We think that one day there may be an explosion. Seventy-three percent of people who are unemployed in South Africa are below the age of 35 and a lot of them have been to universities.

"If we look at lots of our cities, they are all surrounded by a ring of fire. We have seen in almost every direction around Johannesburg, periodic violent protest actions led by young people and women, the two sections of the community that bear the brunt of that crisis of unemployment."

Demonstrations have exploded in poor areas, with the number of protests rising eight-fold in the last seven years, peaking at 111 in 2010.

Last October, more than 2 000 young people marched through Johannesburg to demand jobs, led by ANC Youth League  leader Julius Malema, who has made "economic freedom" his rallying cry.

Arab Spring

Now, some observers warn that South Africa could see its own 'Arab Spring.'

"When those people stand up, they are not going to be as peaceful as we hope when they try and voice their grievances," said Kindiza Ubami, from Johannesburg's Centre for Violence and Reconciliation.

"It will be as bad as what happened in the Arab countries."

In an attempt to pacify this growing anger, President Zuma has promised to create five million jobs by 2020.

In his recent State of the Nation address, he put forward an ambitious job creation plan, underpinned by R300bn in spending to upgrade the nation's railways and ports.

South Africa's economy has begun creating jobs again, with unemployment at 23.9% in the last quarter of 2011 - still very high but the lowest level since the 2008 global financial crisis.

1m jobs lost

But South Africa has still not replaced the one million jobs lost during the global recession and the part of the population living in poverty, at nearly 40%, has hardly budged since apartheid ended in 1994.

"The work done last year indicates that if we continue to grow reasonably well, we will begin to write a new story about South Africa - the story of how, working together, we drove back unemployment and reduced economic inequality and poverty," Zuma said.

"It is beginning to look possible. We must not lose this momentum."

The job creation drive might seem a long way off but politicians trust and hope it is enough to give young people hope, to avoid more social unrest. Despite the increase in protests, many young people do not want revolution.

Bam, for one, just wants an opportunity to earn a living.

"I actually believe in myself and the skills which I have. So if anyone says 'hey, I can try out for two days,' I'll be there and make sure that that person is impressed."

  • dave.leverton - 2012-02-21 18:25

    "...the part of the population living in poverty has hardly budged since apartheid ended in 1994." ANC - please explain. Those living in poverty - when did you last see the person you voted for ?

      Joe - 2012-02-22 04:07

      Yes this is a ticking time bomb but not for the reasons that are listed in this article. The main reason there are millions unemployed is because of the fact that there are too many people. This number grows at an alarming rate every day. The other reason why there is no jobs is because of bad governance. Billions are stolen, unskilled people are in key positions,  investor confidence have been shaken to the core, the labour laws are too  restrictive, people are following the examples set by the leaders (why work for something if you can get it for free), individuals and businesses are taxed to the maximum leaving only money for necessities. The root causes of SA's problems are conveniently ignored while the so-called leaders are instigating further via their public platforms. Vavi and friends have been regurgitating these same statements over the past 3 years. It is almost as if they want a revolution. Yet they fail to mention the above truths. The jobless can't blame anyone other than themselves. They vote for the same losers election after election. What they don't realise is that Zim's people could run south, this is the last lifeline. Once this breadbasket is destroyed they will not only have no jobs but they'll starve.

  • ronheidtmann - 2012-02-21 18:25

    And how exactly is this our problem?

      eblockwatch - 2012-02-21 18:33

      Like Malema tried to say. They will take the cheese out of your fridge. If you have a job give it to some one who has brains. It is waisted on you.

  • BmB - 2012-02-21 18:32

    Go for it Bam, especially with such an attitude!

  • Tanie - 2012-02-21 18:39

    This is nonsensical, for generations we have seen the similar thing of youth being unemployed in South Africa. I wonder how a norm will spark the unrest that you are wishing to happen. AND we are not the Arab countries for that matter. The unrest in those Arab countries was a strategic move and not due to youth being unemployed, the aim to remove the Arab leaders was to get an easy way through their resources so that the known countries should ease the effects of the recession they were and are experiencing.

  • SarelJBotha - 2012-02-21 18:45

    So the sins of the fathers and mothers, who kept having kids without regard for reality, comes to roost. It is a pity that those children who are now suffering still support the ANC for the most part. They are now being let down by bad policy, outdated labour laws, corruption and plain evil.

      Duncan Thabiso Mphailane - 2012-02-21 19:06

      I'm again reading a stupid comment by a stupid "person". What you're saying is that farm workers shouldn't have children as you're paying them R1200pm.

  • Duncan Thabiso Mphailane - 2012-02-21 18:50

    The headline should read "Black youth unemployment 'a ticking time bomb'". You people should just go to townships and see the level of unemployment among black youth. For some reason, those who have never stayed in townships and those black people who've been staying in suburbs for too long think township people are lazy and stupid.

      Trevor - 2012-02-21 18:58

      So what more do you expect from the tax payers when I handover 45% income tax,pay tolls,VAT,Capital Gains Tax,Fuel levy,rates and taxes...etc....and the list goes on...saying "You People" smacks of ignorance....SA wants to get out of this, then people should STOP BREEDING LIKE FIES...and our leaders should set the example...but that will never happen...just ask Prez Zuma...

      Christian J Denyschen - 2012-02-21 19:04

      they must be stupid if they keep voting for a party that had 18 years 2 create jobs but steels the money set a side for it.

      Tanie - 2012-02-21 19:22

      Trevor from looking on your picture it looks like your larva have hatched and you are holding your own insect too.

      Pierre Vermaak - 2012-02-21 19:22

      @ Duncan. I do sympathize with all our unemployed youth. However, blacks have a better chance to be accepted at Universities, qualify for scholarships, internships, etc and thx to equity and BEE, have a far better chance to be employed.

  • Ruan - 2012-02-21 18:56

    EASY,,,,there are around 9 million foreigners in SA,get rid of them and your problem is solved,or maybe try not voting for the anc who squander and loot the money that is supposed to create jobs. On another note,if the youth rise up in this country and it is inspired by the likes of certain racist youth leagues agendas,they will tell the uneducated youth to capitalise on this uprising by telling them that whites have stolen their jobs etc etc etc,,,just something to think about and to prepare for peeps.

  • Andre - 2012-02-21 19:00

    Fact is a very large portion of the youth today is undisciplined and uneducated even thought they have "matric" because that helps nothing if you cannot read, write and have no basic arithmetic skills!

      roger.pacey - 2012-02-21 20:19

      Fact is, you can become President or COO of the SABC with little or no formal education, yet they keep telling the youth to study hard so they can get a job. Fact is, you can turn up hours late to a public meeting yet berate pupils for coming to school 15 minutes late. With role models like these, what motivation is there for youth to be educated or disciplined?

  • Michael - 2012-02-21 19:13

    Just an interesting bit of information the Government decides to not mention. The Government's definition for unemployment excludes all people who are unemployed but have stopped looking for work. So the Government's 7.5 million unemployed figure is actually only around half of the number of true unemployed people in the country.

  • braamc - 2012-02-21 19:25

    More corrupt, more theft, less jobs, you get what you vote for

  • Brian - 2012-02-21 19:26

    I have a small company dealing in a vital part of the commercial insurance sector . I have tried approaching INSETA to create 10 jobs and train previously disadvantaged person in this sector and obtain a subsidy from them to do this as I cannot afford to do this on my own and all I get is a blank . If the goverment is really serious about cretaing jobs they need to put their money where their mouth is .

      Joe - 2012-02-21 20:08

      Brian. The problem is that they put our money where their mouth is.

  • Peter - 2012-02-24 05:27

    The problem here is that everyone is waiting for the government to give them a job. Instead of telling them to create their own job, the government blames apartheid. Of course, no sense of responsibility is seen anywhere - just pass the buck instead. This is like repairing the road by placing a sign that reads "Potholes 10km".

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