- The expanded number of youth without employment stands at 74.7%.
- The Covid-19 pandemic has added more misery to youth unemployment.
- Black women and young people are the hardest-hit by the scourge of unemployment.
Youth unemployment has been described as a biggest crisis of our time and the effects of the scourge are visible in all corners of the country.
The country's unemployment rate shot up to a record 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021, in what has been a steady rise over the past two decades and only interrupted by unsustainable seasonal upward adjustments that failed to make any meaningful difference.
As a result, the unemployment crisis formed part of political slogans and made its way to high-level economic dialogues followed by are handful of job-creation strategies, promises and programmes aimed at addressing the scourge.
Economists have indicated that the expanded unemployment rate, which includes those who have given up looking for jobs, is 43.2%. The unofficial rate among the youth between the ages of 15 and 24 stands at a whopping 74.7%, meaning three out of every four young South Africans in this age group cannot find a job.
Programmes such as the Presidential Employment Intervention Stimulus, the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, and the Youth Employment Service (YES), which is a partnership with the private sector, are some of the many interventions devised to fight the rising unemployment tide, but their impact has not done enough to dent the jobless scourge.
According to Lisette IJssel de Schepper, senior economist at the Bureau of Economic Research (BER), such interventions may provide relief, but the Covid-19 pandemic has added new negative implications for the labour market.
"This has not been an equal crisis for everybody," IJssel De Schepper noted.
She stated black women and the youth in particular have been hit the hardest, and that any economic growth in the immediate term will not necessarily translate into employment as jobs often lag economic growth.
"Tourism provides an easy entry into the job market and the sector is still facing significant pressures, that is likely to contribute to the problem."
According to the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), the youth unemployment rate rose by more than five percentage points as a result of the pandemic and, on average, 444 young people have joined the unemployment pool every day since the start of the pandemic.
A note by the independent policy research and advocacy organisation described the youth unemployment as a "catastrophe" and that "too many young people are disconnected from economic opportunities" and "feel this exclusion in deeply personal and damaging ways".
Statistics show that in 2016, unemployment stood at 26.5% and that figure has been steadily climbing. Cities, small towns and villages are littered with young people who have given up on ever getting a job and survive on odd jobs.
One of the people who have given up looking for a job is Martin Matsie, a 33-year-old university graduate who has struggled to find a stable formal employment since since graduating a decade ago. Matsie survives providing garden landscaping services in Johannesburg's northern suburbs.
"I have never been formally employed. The income that I am getting is not enough to sustain myself and you are not guaranteed a consistent stream of job opportunities. Sometimes I go for weeks without securing a job," he said.
Matsie said he was concerned that he had spent a great number of his youth years outside formal employment and worries that he may never find a job. The CDE research paints a bleak picture about the effects of unemployment on a person's future employability.
It says the long term unemployed become "increasingly ill-suited to the needs of the economy" as training becomes less relevant and therefore the unemployed are doubly disadvantaged in a country where too few jobs are being created.
President Cyril Ramaphosa will on Youth Day launch the National Pathway Management Network a service aimed at expanding job opportunities available to young people.
"Government programmes can help, but they are not the answer to creating jobs at scale. They are too small, last for a short amount of time, and are too expensive to expand sufficiently," according to the CDE.
In the meantime, thousands of the country's jobless live in hope of escaping the grim jobless statistics and grab whatever opportunity that comes their way.