Non-governmental organisation Equal Education (EE) has cautioned the matric class of 2017 that many will grapple with joblessness despite their qualifications.
A total of 634,527 full-time and 168,109 part-time candidates were registered to write the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams in 2017.
“There are real benefits to completing matric, and providing quality basic education for all is pivotal as a sustainable solution to addressing unemployment,” it said.
“However, the difficult truth is that even the educationally privileged among the Class of 2017 will find the current post-school environment to be severely lacking in employment opportunities.”
Citing 2017 World Bank data, EE said that South Africa’s unemployment rate has been rising over the last nine years, and is now at 27.7% – higher than countries with similar gross domestic product (GDP) per capita including Botswana at 18.1%, Namibia at 22.3%, Gabon at 18.5% and Algeria at 11.7%.
Youths bear the brunt of unemployment, it said, with the unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 34 year at 38.6% according to the Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the third quarter of 2017.
“While low quality basic education and incomplete education leave young people without the suitable skills, higher education graduates are not immune to the effects of low economic growth. The graduate unemployment rate was at 7.3% in the first quarter of 2017.”
“Thus, although a tertiary qualification lessens an individual’s chances of being unemployed, it is not a guaranteed gateway to employment, especially if without workplace experience,” it said.
Youths not in Employment, Education or Training (NEETs)
According to StatsSA, in the third quarter of 2017, 30% of South Africa’s 10.3 million youths aged 15 to 24, were not in employment, education or training (NEET).
“This untapped potential is a national tragedy. The number of youths who are neither learning nor engaged in income-generating activities has risen since 1996, from 2 million,” said EE.
“South Africa is very likely to fail to substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training by 2020 – a target of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
According to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the largest proportion of NEETs aged 15 to 24 are those who exited high school without completing matric, and those who did matriculate but did not attain a diploma or degree. One million of these individuals are new entrants to the labour market but unemployed, and nearly 700,000 are discouraged work-seekers according to 2016 data.
“These youths are unable to improve their employment prospects because they are not gaining skills or work experience. Worse, remaining unemployed for extended periods of time signals low potential productivity to employers, further reducing the likelihood of finding employment,” EE said.
“They are financially dependent on other household members – the old-age pension (grant) in particular has been found to support job-seeking activities for young people.”