Youth unemployment: Corporate South Africa must be held to account

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How can South Africa’s young people lead the country one day when there are so many excuses barring them from getting experience so that they can rise to the occasion, asks Peter van Nieuwenhuizen. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images
How can South Africa’s young people lead the country one day when there are so many excuses barring them from getting experience so that they can rise to the occasion, asks Peter van Nieuwenhuizen. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images

The youth have shown that they are willing and able to work. Why then is the unemployment rate so high for this demographic?

South African business owners complain that the state does nothing to create an environment that is conducive to reduce unemployment levels under the youth.

It is widely trumpeted that the employment of young graduates is expensive and difficult.

Why, then, did the state come up with a youth unemployment scheme and with employment tax incentives if it does not want to create a climate designed to get more youth into the workplace?

It seems that Corporate South Africa chooses to ignore the tax incentives available to it just so that there can be a stick to keep the unemployed youth at bay.

Under the current labour dispensation, there is no reason why someone cannot be employed for at least 20 hours a week, at a wage of R 4500 a month until he/she has proven themselves. Besides, employers who choose to give the youth a chance, can file for a pay-as-you-earn credit of R1000 a month for every unemployed youth that they absorb into the workplace.

Over the past 12 months, the Growth Institute has facilitated many work readiness programmes to the benefit of the youth. It was striking to see that more than 5000 applicants were willing to work for 20 hours a week at a wage of R4500 so that they can get a foot in the door.

It is also striking how many employers – especially human resource managers and recruiters – are not aware of the employment tax incentives and benefits associated with youth unemployment. They keep on recruiting people with experience into entry-level positions and continue to complain that the salary demands of new job applicants (who already have a few years’ experience) is the reason why it is so expensive, difficult and impossible to give unemployed graduates and school leavers a chance.

As far as unemployed Grade 12s are concerned, employers say that the education system has failed and that someone with a 45% to 50% average in Grade 12 has no hope of a future.

The reality tells a different story.

Many young graduates who pass Grade 12 with an average of 45% to 50% have done remarkably well in college or university.

In fact, one sixth of graduates who had a 60% at college or university had not-so-glamorous marks in Grade 12. They came from schools where the teachers were inferior but, when placed in an environment where lecturers care, the situation reversed itself.

Creating barriers to entry such as what is described above, harms the economy in the long run. It cannot be tolerated because there is a significant imbalance in our population. The majority are under 35 years old and they are the actual future of the country.

How can that majority lead the country one day when there are so many excuses barring them from getting experience so that they can rise to the occasion?

• Peter van Nieuwenhuizen is the chief financial officer at the Growth Institute, a private college focusing on management education, skills development and enterprise development

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