Sunday Read: Why data and transport costs are the biggest barriers for young job seekers


Quarter after quarter, there’s much hand-wringing as the unemployment statistics are released, revealing the staggering number of jobless young people.

Twenty five years after democracy, South Africa has an official unemployment rate of 27.1%. Among people under 35 the rate is about 53% - among the highest in the world.

Harambee, a youth employment accelerator aims to bridge the gap between young people (18-34 years old) needing entry level jobs and the job market. Harambee has provided 95 000 jobs and work experiences through 500 "employer partners" which include some of SA’s largest corporates, such as Woolworths, Tongaat Hullet and FNB. 

Fin24 spoke to Lebo Nke, the head of partnerships and advocacy at Haramabee about their efforts to land young people jobs. 

Fin24: Where is the gap between young people and the job market? 

Lebo Nke (LN): Young people don’t know enough about the world of work. Many of them have not been exposed in their households to someone with a formal job, it’s like a foreign place. Young people also have tons of experience in life, for example volunteering in their church. They just don’t know what they’re good at and how to tell this to employers. 

Fin24: What are some of the barriers to young people finding jobs? 

LN: Transport is one of the biggest barriers facing young people looking for employment. According to Harambee’s research, if people have to take more than one taxi to work, their chances of staying in the job are greatly reduced. 

Fin24: What does Harambee offer young people? 

LN: Our offices offer young job seekers an employer visibility map which matches their geographic location and attitude to a possible job. There’s a difference between a qualification and being work ready. Harambee offers a bridge between this. Young people are shown how to set up professional Gmail addresses for example and attend mock interviews.

Fin24: What do young people need to get a foot in the job market?

LN: Curiosity, an ability to self-regulate and work in a team. Depending on the job, behaviours are crucial. It’s also important to have a certain sense of realism. For example, in retail, people should be prepared to be on their feet and work on weekends or shifts. Work is not always about a specific skill but employers looking for a type of person for their company.

Fin24: What should governments and business be doing to support young job-seekers? 

LN: The country needs to think about providing unemployed youth with a package of support, for example transport and data subsidies. Harambee is increasingly advocating for government and business to think differently about the requirements for entry-level jobs, including a job seeker's allowance and scrapping the experience requirement. We also encourage businesses to pay a job-seeker's first salary in advance to help with transport costs.

Harambee has offices in Johannesburg CBD, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London 

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