Almost 40% of South African youth are unemployed. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has conceded that unemployment is the greatest challenge facing South Africa. He was addressing the nation as he opened the Jobs Summit on Thursday, October 4.

“The jobs that have been created over the past few years have not kept pace with the growth of the population or the expansion of the workforce,” Ramaphosa said. “We have therefore gathered here at this Jobs Summit to respond to these economic challenges, which manifest themselves through unemployment, poverty and inequality.

“In the National Development Plan (NDP), we said that if we were to effectively and sustainably tackle this triple challenge [of unemployment, poverty and inequality], we should aim to reduce unemployment to at least 6% by 2030,” he added.

The two-day Jobs Summit was meant to address the high levels of unemployment in South Africa, and followed months of consultation between the government, the private sector, unions and community organisations in the hope of creating 275 000 new jobs annually.

Current unemployment statistics as released by Statistics South Africa in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2018 found that the official unemployment rate between December 2017 and March 2018 remained unchanged at 26,7%.

With the expanded definition of unemployment, which includes those people not actively looking for jobs, that rate was 36,7% for the same period.

South Africa’s youth unemployment rate is particularly high at 38,2%, meaning more than one in every three young people currently don’t have a job.

Lecturer in the School of Economic and Business Sciences at Wits University, Dr Gareth Roberts, says it’s hard to say whether the summit would have any effect.

“The problem is that our education system is not competitive at an international level and, as such, we’re basically plugging holes in a sinking ship,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.

A graduate with a masters degree in politics, 26-year-old Amy Ashworth forms part of the 38,2% of unemployed youth. She says practical solutions to youth unemployment need to be addressed. “In my opinion, the broad agenda of the conference needs to focus on creating a skilled workforce, which starts with improving education and access to vocational training.”

Ashworth says traineeships would help graduates access work spaces and provide valuable experience as well as the ability to develop a career.

FEATURED IMAGE: Unemployment affects nearly 27% of South Africans. Photo: Tshegofatso Mokgabudi