President Jacob Zuma says that many young graduates are without work because of a stagnating economy.
The president was speaking at the Tshwane Events Centre to commemorate Youth Day on Tuesday (16 June).
A StatsSA report showed that the unemployment rate among youth aged 15 to 34 increased from 32.7% to 36.1% between 2008 and 2014.
When using the International Labour Organisation’s categorisation of young people as those between the ages of 15 and 24, the rate reportedly moves beyond 50%.
The country’s 2015 economic growth forecast is a mere 2%, having slumped to 1.3% for the first quarter of the year, well below other comparative developing economies.
“The economy is not growing as fast as we want to and is not creating as many jobs as we need. As a result many of our graduates sit at home without jobs,” said Zuma.
“We reiterate our call to the private sector to open their businesses to the youth for internships and apprentices in line with the youth employment accord signed a few years ago,” the president said.
“We have to work together to provide opportunities for the youth, who are the future of our country. Government cannot perform this task alone. We thank all businesses that continue to employ young people and offer opportunities to them.”
In May, StatsSA figures showed that for the first time in 11 years, the SA government made a negative contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Zuma said that the government has made education an apex priority since the dawn of freedom, “because we believe it is a most effective weapon in the ongoing fight against poverty, inequality and unemployment”.
He said that education continues to receive the biggest chunk of the national budget.
Government, the president noted, invests more than R6 billion on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme which provides support to young people who are unable to pay.
Zuma said that the government is building three new universities and 12 technical and vocational training colleges.
The Industrial Development Corporation in partnership with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA) have ring-fenced R2.7 billion over the next five years for young people to take up opportunities in business.
In the last financial year, the NYDA supported 1,043 micro and small youth owned enterprises, Zuma said.
SA education shameful
At the DA’s Youth Day commemoration at Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan University, DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane also preached the value of lifting the education standard in the country.
“I have repeatedly said that one of the first priorities of a DA government will be to turn around our failing education system so that we can equip young South Africans to enter the job market with the skills and the confidence to make a success of their lives.
“The state of our education, 21 years into our democracy, is shameful. Ours is considered to be among the very worst in the world,” the opposition party lead said.
“History will one day show that the failure to provide our children with quality education will be our government’s single biggest failure.”
The DA said that if it were elected to lead government, it would help school graduates enter the job market through a range of programmes.
The first of these will be the implementation of a Youth Wage Subsidy – a state-funded tax rebate for employers who hire young people.
“We will also get rid of the failed National Youth Development Agency, which has nothing to show for all the money that has been pumped into it. A fully-fledged Youth Wage Subsidy will do far more for youth unemployment than NYDA ever could.
“A DA government will guarantee free tertiary education for all qualifying students. No one should be denied the opportunity to study further because he or she cannot afford it,” Maimane said.
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