Face to face with unemployment – meet three young women trying to make a plan

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Millions of young people are desperate to find work.
Millions of young people are desperate to find work.

The current state of unemployment in the country is alarming. Sounds familiar, right? Well, it's just got worse.

Take a look around you. People are desperately looking for work. Some are starting their own small businesses, others are disheartened and don't believe they'll ever find work.

When Stats SA published its latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QFLS), the numbers echoed what we already suspected – that the unemployment rate is at an all-time high. It says 32.6% of people in the country are unemployed. 

The figures look a whole lot worse when they are adjusted under the expanded definition of unemployment that includes people who have given up looking for work. It then rises to 43.2% and, worse still, indicates that a whopping 74.7% of youth are unemployed.

Drum puts some faces to the stats and chats to some of this country's unemployed young people who are struggling to make ends meet.  

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Amanda Monde (29) from Port Elizabeth holds a BCom degree in business management and industrial psychology. She has been unemployed since October 2020. 

“It was an internship for 12 months and the contract terminated last year. I have been looking ever since,” she tells us.

Amanda Monde is in need of a job so she can make an honest living.

Amanda was excited because her internship was in line with industrial psychology, which is what she studied. She was encouraged because her previous jobs were not related to her qualification.

But now it's been eight months of not working.

“It is stressful. It is so depressing. I search online all the time, but nothing is coming up.

“All I hope for is a permanent job, something that will help me live.

“Honestly, it’s only God keeping me going. And also seeing my peers get jobs is encouraging me that the day will come for me to also have a job,” she says.

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The situation is so dire for so many that people are prepared to take whatever job comes their way to put food on the table.

Refentse Sekgaolela (26) started her own business in October 2020 cleaning dustbins in her neighbourhood. The 26-year-old says her job hunting was not bearing fruit, so she came up with a plan and now she is the owner of Super Clean Wheelie.

“It had been four years since my last job where I worked as a receptionist until my contract expired,” she tells us.

Desperate for income, the mother of one thought on her feet and decided to get her hands dirty.

“I have learnt that money has no pride. It does not matter what circumstances you are in, you can make money in many ways,” she says.

And she says the money she makes goes a long way.

“I am proud of myself for doing what I do. It is an honest living. At the end of the day, this money really helps me.

Getting started was hard. She admits she used her son's social grant money to print out flyers and pay for the creation of logo.

“For materials to wash the bins, to buy brooms and brushes, my customers paid me before I started, and this was really helpful,” she says.

Although it's only been in operation for a few months, the company is doing well and she's looking into expanding the scope of her business into a fully-fledged cleaning company.

“Anything that has to do with cleaning, I want to do it,” she says.

Given the unemployment situation, the Pretoria-born start-up owner urges people to stop blaming others for where they are in life and says they should get on and do what they can.

“There are people who let pride get in the way of doing certain work. They are worried about what people will say,” Refentse says dismissively.

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Nomalungelo Masondo (27) from Pietermaritzburg is a social work graduate and aspirant masters candidate.

“I am at a place in my life where I’m damn near 28, unemployed, and living in my mom’s house. But I can pour myself a glass of liquor and sit on her floor in her bedroom and just vent about my life, and I am so grateful for that,” she tweeted.

It has been three months since her five-month contract at the Department Social Development ended and now she's looking for permanent employment as a social worker to put her degree to use.

Even though this is her ideal job, she says she doesn’t have the luxury of being picky right now.

“As things stand, I would take any job I can find,” she says.

It gets so hard sometimes, she says, but she's lucky to have a relationship with God.

“My faith has pulled me through some of my lowest and darkest moments. I am also so blessed to have a very strong support system. My mother is my angel on Earth and knowing that I have her support and backing in every aspect of life helps me keep hope alive," Nomalungelo says. 

She surrounds herself with supportive friends and a network of other unemployed social workers who motivate each other, share posts, and interview tips. 

"I would like other young people to know that they are not alone. We are all facing the unemployment challenge.

"When in need of motivation or when you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out for support even if it is to strangers online like I do on Twitter. Also, don't limit yourselves to just waiting for the government to give you work. Explore other options," she says 

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