The latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey for Quarter 3 of 2023, released Tuesday 14 November 2023, indicates that 8.9 million young people between the ages of 15 and 34 years old are unemployed, and that 9.1 million young people are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), and long-term unemployment is an epidemic, with nearly 8 in 10 South Africans across all ages having been without any employment for over a year.
While both the unemployment and NEET figures show a minor decrease, these numbers show the drastic impact of sluggish economic growth. The increase in the number of employed individuals has surpassed pre-covid levels, but the increase in absorption rate is negligible. ‘South Africa has a ballooning youth population, which could be economically active, promote economic inclusion, use their skills to support their communities, driving economic growth and an equitable society. However, the absorption rate is still below pre-COVID level. This means that the overwhelming majority of people who are young and could be working are not able to find any opportunities despite all their continuous efforts’ says Kristal Duncan-Williams, Project Lead at Youth Capital.
Young people are not only joining an ever-growing long queue of unemployment, they are also the most vulnerable to losing their jobs once they enter the labour market. Data shows that South Africa struggles to create jobs for young people. Of the 784,000 jobs created over the past year only 45,000 went to those younger than 25. ‘Because of the positive correlation between Gross Domestic Product and employment, there is critical urgency to prioritise growth and realign our resources to unlock economic potential.’ adds Duncan-Williams.
Youth, aged 15-24 years and 25-34 years continue to have the highest unemployment rates at 58,0% and 38,3% respectively. But this has been a persistent reality; over the last 10 years young people have consistently borne the highest burden of unemployment compared to their older counterparts, with an average rate of unemployment that is 20% higher than for those aged 35-64. South Africa requires a basket of solutions to tackle this continued epidemic of youth unemployment- an environment that fosters substantial economic growth, support mechanisms for young people along their journeys from learning to earning, as well as their ability to make an income leveraging their skills, talent and potential. ‘We’re at crossroads, and we need to make sure that we leverage our youth bulge to the best of our abilities. We call the government and National Treasury to address youth unemployment with a range of solutions before it’s too late’ says Duncan-Williams.
Youth Capital’s youth employment strategy, the Action Plan, bridges the gaps between research, policies and young people’s lived experiences, prioritizing ten systemic roadblocks that young people face on their journey. Addressing these challenges with integrated solutions has the power of shifting the needle on the crisis. The Action Plan includes ten Calls to Action to unlock young people’s economic potential by supporting them to finish their education, access the labour market, and leverage existing opportunities for sustainable next steps.