In response to the deepening youth unemployment crisis in the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a “two-pronged” intervention that is expected to reduce the shocking level of unemployment over the next five years.
Presenting the State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday, Ramaphosa announced what he called six priority actions which are expected to create job opportunities and self-employment opportunities under the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention programme.
The programme comes on the same week that Statistics South Africa announced that the country’s unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2019 had remained at an 11-year high of 29%.
The picture is bleaker when one whittles that figure down to people between the ages of 25 to 34 years, for whom the rate rises to 35.6%. Even more shocking is the 58% rate of unemployment among young people aged 15 to 24 years.
“This will be through top-slicing from the budget, which will require that we all tighten our belts and redirect resources to address the national crisis of youth unemployment,” said the president.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is expected to provide details on how this plan will be implemented when he delivers his mid-term budget policy statement in October.
South Africa works for youth
Part of this grand plan includes a “youth employment initiative” that will be funded by setting aside 1% of the budget to deal with the high levels of youth unemployment.
“We need to make this country work for young people, so that they can work for our country,” said Ramaphosa.
The first initiative that will begin in February is a programme aimed at providing young people with work readiness training to increase their chances of finding work.
A pilot of five prototype centres aimed at imparting this knowledge and training either online, telephonically or in-person will be launched, with the ultimate goal of reaching three million young people.
Ramaphosa said the government is also working to “fundamentally change” how young people are prepared for the future of work, by providing “shorter, more flexible courses in specific skills that employers in fast-growing sectors need”.
“Third, we are developing new and innovative ways to support youth entrepreneurship and self-employment,” said the President.
“Fourth, we are scaling up the Youth Employment Service and working with TVET colleges and the private sector to ensure that more learners receive practical experience in the workplace to complete their training”.
Lastly, the Presidential Youth Service programme will be established to “unlock the agency of young people” by providing them with opportunities to earn a living while contributing to nation-building.
“These six actions will together ensure that every young person in this country has a place to go, that their energy and capabilities are harnessed, and that they can contribute to the growth of their communities and their country,” Ramaphosa said.
The intervention also brings in the National Youth Development Agency and the Department of Small Business Development, which will ensure that 1 000 young entrepreneurs receive a fighting chance through grant funding and business support “in the next 100 days – starting today”.