South Africa’s shock job numbers – and a plan to give a basic income grant to people under 35

The latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) published by StatSA shows that South Africa’s unemployment rate currently stands at 32.6%.

The situation is significantly more desperate for young job seekers, and the data shows that unemployment among those aged 15-34 years stands at 46.3%.

9.3% of these young unemployed jobseekers are university graduates.

The government says that it now plans to address the long-standing challenge of youth unemployment through the newly developed National Youth Policy (NYP).

The policy is aimed at strengthening youth development, both during and post the Covid-19 era, said the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. It also seeks to find creative and innovative ways to address the high unemployment rate, which is also linked to mental health issues.

This includes the introduction of a new basic income grant aimed specifically at the country’s unemployed youth.

“(This will) support young people and young discouraged jobseekers’ efforts to enter the labour market by introducing a Basic Universal Income Grant – an incentive similar to the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant primarily to support youth to transition into employment or entrepreneurship.”

Other unemployment interventions which have been proposed by the department in the policy include:

  • Abolish the requirement for experience for entry-level jobs to enable more youth to enter the labour market and gain job experience;
  • Creating a national pathway management network to provide work seekers with access to a basic package of support and work-readiness training to better match them to economic opportunities;
  • Equip young people with skills in key growth sectors to access opportunities such as the green, waste and food economies and advocate for the development of a catch-up strategy for those who have been left behind due to dropping out of the school system;
  • The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the Department of Small Business Development should implement grant funding and business support for 100,000 young entrepreneurs in the next three years;
  • Offer practical experience to young people through the scaling up of the Youth Employment Service (YES) to assist them in getting practical job experience.

Jobs should be set aside

“(The) public and private sector is not responding effectively to young people’s needs,” the department’s chief director Dr Bernice Hlagala said in an interview this week.

“The policy seeks to try and ensure that service providers accelerate the implementation of interventions, so that young people can benefit and become contributing members of society. Many youths take far too long to transition to adulthood due to unemployment, and this is a concern.”

Hlagala said that all industries that have a high absorption capacity need to prioritise and employ young people – especially sectors such as agriculture, tourism mining, and the oceans economy.

The government through the policy is confident that young people will be provided with quality education, she said.

“We also hope that it will enable them to get employment or to become entrepreneurs so that they can create jobs for themselves and other young people. We also look at the policy enabling young people to contribute to their immediate communities and society.

“This policy will promote physical and mental health, whilst ensuring that the institutions responsible for young people are responsive to their needs,” said Hlagala.

Read: Double-blow for South Africa this week

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South Africa’s shock job numbers – and a plan to give a basic income grant to people under 35