Businesses urged to take on inexperienced young workers, but some are weary of whether this will reduce youth unemployment.

In his seventh State of the Nation Address (SONA) held on February 9, 2023 president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, highlighted several measures taken by the government to reduce the high levels of youth unemployment. 

Ramaphosa implored private companies and government entities to “remove the requirements for work experience for young people seeking entry-level positions”. 

Too many unemployed to benefit

Kristal Duncan-Williams is the project lead for Youth Capital, a youth-led, youth-focused campaign which addresses youth unemployment in South Africa. Duncan-Williams told Wits Vuvuzela that removing these requirements is “a great starting point… but the reality is that there is a long queue of unemployed young people… without work experience, young people are still going to be at the back of the queue”. 

Until more job opportunities are created for young people, she added, “the availability of the jobs, even if the requirements have shifted, haven’t changed”. More jobs are being created, with 15,8 million people employed for quarter three of 2022, according to the quarterly labour force survey for quarter three of 2022 (QLFS Q3:2022). This was 1,5 million more than the 14,3 million employed in the same quarter of the previous year, according to the quarterly labour force survey for quarter three of 2021. Despite this, 100 000 people became unemployed during this period. 

According to a survey conducted by Youth Capital in 2022 with small and medium business owners, these businesses, which comprise most of the South African economy, do not have the capacity to train young people who are without work experience. Duncan-Williams said this puts businesses on the “back foot”, and serious support needs to be provided to heed the president’s call. 

Ramaphosa also announced that the government has expanded its Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) “to encourage businesses to hire more young people in large numbers”. The incentivises businesses by reducing the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax required of them while leaving the young employee’s salary unaffected. 

However, a press release by Youth Capital on February 9, 2023, read: “Many small businesses are not aware of what is available to them or don’t have the administrative support to access these schemes; and those that do know are finding it difficult to access them because of red tape.” 

Young people are capable

Colleen Scott, who owns Plastic Fabrication Centre along with her husband, Craig, told Wits Vuvuzela that it is feasible to hire youths without work experience. 

“They are keen to learn and you can train them to do a job exactly how you want it done. When you know what works best from experience, it’s easier to teach someone that particular way, than to try change the way someone has learnt it previously,” said Scott.  

Young people have mixed sentiments on whether government is doing enough incentivise businesses to employ youths. 

Zayaan Bhan, a first year bachelor of accounting science student at Wits University said, “If they [government] are telling businesses that their PAYE will come down if they employ the youth, I think it’s a very good initiative”. Bhan is aware that many graduates find it difficult to obtain employment, however, he is hopeful that he will find work after graduating. 

A Wits BA psychology graduand, Vishan Govinder, is part of the 10,7% of graduates still looking for work after completing their studies, according to the QLFS Q3:2022. “I’ve been trying for months and months but nothing has come up yet so I know it’s a difficult journey ahead of me”, he told Wits Vuvuzela

“[T]here’s so many people with degrees sitting without jobs and it’s becoming ridiculous the amount of unemployed youth that’s still present now in 2023 when we have way more technology to increase jobs”, Govinder said. 

Despite the urges government has made for youth employment to be increased, around 3,5 million people aged 15 to 24 are not in employment, education or training, according to QLFS Q3:2022. This is 34,5% of the 10,2 million people within this age range.

FEATURED IMAGE: An unemployed youth seeks help in the form of a job, among other things. Photo: File