June 16 is here but future for our youth is bleak

Unemployment and lack of access to education is rife

June 16 is here but future for our youth is bleak Unemployment and lack of access to education is rife June is Youth Month in SA and as various bodies of society commemorate this moment, it is disheartening that youth unemployment is at a staggering 5500 and it is reported to be among the highest in the world.

As the country celebrates Youth Month, it is befitting to reiterate that the celebrations should not simply equate to boozy tirades and sashaying around in ill-fitting old school uniforms.

Cognisance should be given to the fact that the most honourable way to commemorate our young heroes of June 16,1976 is to develop the skills of the current youth to prepare them for the job market.

It is also imperative to focus on the role of the youth in advancing the wellbeing of the country, in particular, the contribution of the youth to the productivity and competitiveness of the economy. In reports by the Institute of Management Development IMD and World Competitiveness Yearbook WCY released over a week ago, SA shows a decline in its competitiveness, from a ranking of 53 last year to 56 in this year, when compared to a selection of 63 countries surveyed annually. Another report by the IMD which uses partner institutes in respective countries to gather data, of which Productivity SA is the partner institute in SA also paints a bleak picture.

The report indicates that productivity levels remain weak while the employment situation continues to worsen, especially among the youth. The position of the country as it relates to productivity levels in particular, show that SA ranked 51 out of 63 countries in the wold. The labour market conditions are bleak by international standards as well and unemployment figures by Statistics SA say the population between the ages of15 to 64, who are willing and able to work, has gone up from 24.3% in 2014 to 27.1% in the first quarter of this year.

These bleak labour market conditions, coupled with the deterioration of productivity levels as well as the worsening international competitiveness rankings of SA, necessitate decisive interventions by the policy makers in the country.

This view is supported by the report by the World Bank on Youth Employment in Sub Saharan Africa the report argues that youth is a critical period of development hence the social and economic shocks occurring in this section of the population during this period can have lasting consequences, specifically for individual youths, and for the country in general. While there is no "one size fits all" solution to youth employment and productivity, any intervention to improve access to quality education and training that could enhance productivity and improve the chance for the youth to find decent work should be encouraged.

A top priority should be the provision of education that addresses the skills required by the economy, incentive schemes that attract and retain young people in learnerships. Over and above that, entrepreneurial opportunities, such as targeted assistance in terms of finance and business skills to advance their ideas, should be placed at the forefront of government reforms and policy. Last but not least, there must be increased access to vocational and technical schools to provide skills training of a more practical nature in combination with the more general education. A holistic implementation of such interventions will go a long way in realising an upward trajectory for youth productivity.

Dr Raputsoane Is a Chief Economist at Productivity SA

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