The South African government will forge ahead with innovative thinking and strong partnerships to take the country’s youth out of the unemployment doldrums.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his weekly message that the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, which was launched just weeks before we entered lockdown in March 2020, was now entering full implementation.
On Wednesday the country will be commemorating Youth Day, an important date that honours the young people who waged an uprising against the apartheid government’s decision to force the teaching of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in high schools.
In 2021, the greatest challenge facing today’s youth is unemployment. According to Stats SA, the unemployment rate as per the expanded definition of unemployment increased by 0.6 of a percentage points to 43.2% in the first quarter of 2021.
The official unemployment rate among youth aged 15 to 34 was 46.3% in first quarter of the year. Among university graduates, the unemployment rate stood at 9.3%.
“Today, the greatest struggle young people wage is against unemployment, something that has worsened under the Covid-19 pandemic. Creating more opportunities for young people and supporting [them] to access these opportunities is government’s foremost priority,” Ramaphosa said.
The president said other interventions to curb youth unemployment included the establishment of a National Pathway Management Network and SA Youth “to make it easier for young people to view and access opportunities and receive active support to find pathways into the labour market”.
“The Presidential Youth Employment Intervention was built on the understanding that to address the youth unemployment crisis requires innovative thinking and strong partnerships across society. Its ultimate objective is to find models that work, whether in skills development or active labour market policies, and to scale these models rapidly to reach as many young people as possible,” he said.
Ramaphosa also said government recognised that young people must be at the centre of any effort to boost youth employment.
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He said that tackling youth unemployment required acceleration of economic growth, particularly in labour-intensive sectors, and building the capability of the state to fulfil its developmental role.
“We are also driving this agenda through a series of targeted interventions. These include the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has provided work opportunities and livelihoods for many young people. On Youth Day we will be launching a range of additional measures to create opportunities, enhance skills development, support young entrepreneurs and enable the full participation of young people in the economy,” he added.
He said that as the country paid tribute to the youth whose courageous activism helped win us our freedom, we also salute the resilience of every young person who is playing their part to build and develop this country.
“They are the young people volunteering in our communities, building our country through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, running their own businesses and studying to better themselves.
They are the young people who are forging their own path and bringing their families along with them. We also salute the young men and women who have not given up hope, who keep working to improve their lives.”