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Newsletter: From Evidence to Action

Youth Labour Market Challenges in South Africa

Type :
Research reports & papers
Author :
Human Sciences Research Council
Published :
Link :

This paper identifies some labour market challenges facing South African youth. It aims to promote debate as part of the HSRC's Youth Initiative. In a context of very high unemployment, the main argument for focusing on 'youth' relates to wanting to contain the creation of a new generation of long-term unemployed. Generally, the longer one is unemployed or underemployed, the harder it is to reverse the effects on self-esteem, etc. There is a high chance of long-term unemployment amongst youth who have weaker searching skills and resources. The paper also looks at the sort of labour market dynamics youth in South Africa face.It poses questions in respect of whether the South African economy is creating low-skill jobs, whether education helps labour market chances, and whether graduate unemployment is a problem because youth are studying inappropriate subject areas. What sort of skills or capabilities is required if employment is more likely to be sourced in the services economy? Should education focus on job-specific skills or on general capabilities such as logic, 'searching' and communication? Although the paper acknowledges that the informal sector will offer some employment opportunities, it also shows that it is unlikely to act as a major source of employment growth. In the current policy frame, public sector employment will be beneficial mainly to graduates as there is a skills bias in hiring. However, this is a policy choice. Public works will become an important source of job opportunities for a large group of marginalised youth, with the vast majority of opportunities to be found in community-based social service delivery such as early childhood development or home- / community-based care, which have a strong gender and rural bias.