Youth unemployment is a problem to most African countries. South Africa is no exception. During apartheid the young along side other groups of individuals in the society were disadvantaged as they did not have enough job opportunities.
In the past two decades since independence the government of South Africa has initiated a number of programs to address this acute problem of lack of employment especially among the youth. It is dangerous for youth to go without employment opportunities. Young people are a group of people who are energetic, ambitious, filled with dreams and much more. When this group of people lack employment opportunities; they are likely to channel their energies into violence and unacceptable behavior in the society.
What has the government of South Africa done to contain the situation in the country?
The South African government has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at creating jobs and reducing unemployment, as well as ameliorating the impact of high unemployment on individuals and their households. The past 20 years has seen a significant expansion of the existing social grants system that, while not specifically targeting the unemployed, has helped reduce poverty among households impacted by unemployment. Thus, by mid-2013, nearly 16.2 million social grants of various types were being paid by government on a monthly basis, equivalent to over 30 percent of the country’s population. Further, there is some evidence that social grants have helped facilitate job search among unemployed household members.
There is general recognition, though, that government alone cannot resolve the unemployment crisis. As a result, there are now a significant number of ongoing interventions spearheaded by organizations in the non-governmental and non-profit spheres. These interventions range from small business support, to youth training, to the provision of bursaries for education and training, to facilitating the matching process between job seekers and employers.
In summary, there are certainly concerns around South Africa’s youth unemployment policy interventions in terms of design, targeting and ability to adequately address the needs of young labor market entrants as well as employers. Perhaps the key constraint in generating impact has been scalability, as many interventions have been too small or too localized to impact aggregate unemployment rates. An important lesson is that supply-side initiatives addressing structural issues are insufficient on their own to generate sufficient new jobs. Instead, these interventions should interface closely with demand-side incentive programs. There are, also, political economy constraints that need to be resolved. For example, the generalized lack of jobs results in resistance to certain interventions on the part of those who view them as a zero-sum game between the youth and older workers.