Why young people can’t find work in South Africa: minister

Government has identified a number of challenges that continue to contribute to the high unemployment rate amongst the youth in South Africa.

Responding in a recent written parliamentary Q&A session, Employment and Labour minister Thulas Nxesi, said that key issues include:

  • The structural nature of the South African economy;
  • Low economic growth levels compounded by insufficient investments by the private and public sector in new ventures and infrastructure;
  • Socio-economic challenges and the high poverty levels that remain amongst blacks and in some instances contributing to school dropouts especially in peri-urban and rural areas;
  • Limited skill acquisition and resultant inadequate preparation of youth for entry into the world of work;
  • Rapid changes in the labour market fuelled by digitisation and automation.

Nxesi said that the Covid-19 pandemic has further added to the above challenges.

“Within government, great strides have been made in improving employability of young people through interventions in the education system but more still needs to be done. Government has also implemented a number of interventions to address the youth unemployment problem,” he said.

Some of the initiatives that have been introduced Department of Employment and Labour include;

  • The Promulgation of the Employment Services Act 2014 was introduced to guide the Department in its free services to promote youth employment. These services include registration of work seekers and employment opportunities, the matching, counselling, placement offered through 126 Labour centres, satellite and visiting points; and vulnerable groups employment schemes through 13 Supported Employment Enterprises Factories and Subsidised organisations that employ people with disabilities;
  • Labour Activation programmes funded by the Unemployment Insurance Fund;
  • Occupational death dependants Youth bursary scheme funded by the Compensation Fund.

Unemployment in South Africa 

The latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the three months to March 2020, revealed that the country’s unemployment rate rose by one percentage point to 30.1% in Q1 of 2020.

This data does not include the coronavirus lockdown period and the country’s unemployment rate is expected to have risen significantly in Q2 2020.

The number of employed persons decreased by 38,000 to 16.4 million and the number of unemployed persons increased by 344,000 to 7.1 million in Q1: 2020 compared to Q4: 2019, resulting in an increase of 306,000 in the labour force.

The percentage of young persons aged 15 – 24 years who were not in employment, education or training (NEET) increased from 33.2% in Q1: 2019 to 34.1% in Q1: 2020.

In this age group, the NEET rate for both males and females increased by 0.8 of a percentage point. The NEET rate for females was higher than that of their male counterparts in both years.

Compared to Q1 2019, the percentage of young persons aged 15-34 years who were not NEET increased by 1.1 percentage points from 40.7% to 41.7% in Q1 2020.

The NEET rate for males increased by one percentage point while for females, the rate increased by 1.1 percentage points in Q1 2020. In both Q1 2019 and Q1: 2020, more than four in every ten young females were not in employment, education or training.


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Why young people can’t find work in South Africa: minister