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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Ramaphosa has no plausible strategy for reducing youth unemployment

President Cyril Ramaphosa will launch yet another plan to deal with the scourge of youth unemployment. The president on Monday said he will officially launch SAYouth.mobi, the National Pathway Management Network “to expand opportunities and support available to young people”. 

Ramaphosa said the National Pathway Management Network is a partnership between the National Youth Development Agency, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, Department of Science and Innovation, Department of Employment and Labour, Department of Higher Education and Training, Department of Small Business Development and the Youth Employment Service.

“Young people are encouraged to sign up to join the network and access opportunities through SAYouth.mobi,” said the president. 

Adding that he will also provide an update on the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, announced in his 2020 State of the Nation Address. 

This launch comes at a time when South Africa faces 75% youth unemployment. The country’s statistics agency this month released shocking youth unemployment statistics. 

According to Statistics South Africa’s QLFS, youth between 15-24 sit at an unemployment rate of 74, 7%. Statistician General Risenga Maluleke explained that the 15-24 range is aligned with global definitions of youth. 

The ANC government has come under severe criticism because of its inability to create an environment supportive of employment creation. 

Ann Bernstein, executive director of the Centre for Development and Enterprise said tackling the youth unemployment crisis should focus on accelerating labour-intensive growth has to be the country’s top priority.

Bernstein said policy reform is urgently required in South Africa is going to make a significant dent “in these catastrophic youth unemployment levels”.

“We have to change the rules and regulations that shape the way our economy functions so that it grows much faster and creates jobs far more rapidly than was the case long before Covid-19 struck,” said Bernstein.

“A job creation drive launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa is under way, but is still in its infancy.

“Given the depth of the youth unemployment crisis, there is no plausible strategy for rapidly reducing unemployment in the short term,” said Bernstein,

Adding that despite the president’s seal of approval, the jury is still out on the likely success of this expensive exercise.

We need more bold signals that will encourage the investment and expansion of existing firms if we are to create enough jobs in the future, she said.

In his Monday newsletter, “From the desk of the president” Ramaphosa said he recognised that the struggles of young people in South Africa today “are many”.

READ: Opinion: 2021 Youth Day celebrations? I’ll sit this one out.

He said the greatest struggle young people wage today is against unemployment – something that has worsened under the Covid-19 pandemic.

 “Everything that we do as government contributes towards improving the lives of young people.

“Tackling youth unemployment requires accelerating economic growth, particularly in labour-intensive sectors and building the capability of the state to fulfil its developmental role,” said Ramaphosa.

The president said that government is driving the agenda of youth employment through targeted interventions – including the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which he says, has provided work opportunities and livelihoods to support many young people.

He added that the employment stimulus intervention was built on the understanding that to address the youth employment crisis, innovative thinking and strong partnerships across society are required.

However, for Bernstein, the country needs reforms that will create space for new, more labour-intensive activities to emerge and grow.

READ: Youth unemployment: Is the solution a change in mindset?

She said these reforms include legal exemptions for small and new firms from collective bargaining agreements to which they are not party, and rebalanced collective bargaining structures to provide greater representation of smaller firms’ concerns.

“We also need to start tackling youth unemployment on as many fronts as possible by reforming the education system, improving the way young people are trained for potential jobs, bringing in skills from all over the world to help train South Africans and grow the economy, and removing all structural constraints on growth.

“We need to do whatever is possible to get as many young people as we can into formal jobs,” she said.

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