EDITORIAL | Urgent plan needed to employ the youth

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Statistics SA this week released data showing a tumble in the country’s employment figures. It highlighted the increased number of unemployed, nudging 27.6% for the first quarter of 2019 and representing more than six million job seekers.What has received less media attention so far is that more than half of our youngsters – that is, those under 24 – are jobless, even though one in five has a tertiary qualification such as a degree or diploma. The numbers do not tell the full story, but they do give a broad outline of the plight of the nation.Educated, intelligent young people, thirsting for a job and in theory qualified to be given one, are sitting at home.President Cyril Ramaphosa is correct to state that youth unemployment is the greatest challenge to social development in SA. However, what is to be done about it?Education is clearly not enough and our young people also need a chance to get relevant on-the-job experience.The government’s stated aim to create 300,000 jobs per year is still only a tiny fraction of what is needed, and neither it nor business leaders have a magic wand to pull out and wave. It is a large and complex problem many years in the making, and it will not be a quick fix.That the formal sector lost the most jobs gives us a pointer as to where another part of the solution lies – and that is in the informal sector.Fix Eskom, because a stable electricity supply is essential for almost any small business.Remove obstacles to small business start-ups by cutting red tape, and increasing access to micro-finance and loans.Encourage entrepreneurship and provide job-focused training.Then, match the training to the needs: we can’t have universities producing graduates who are sitting without jobs yet there are fields with a dire shortage of workers. Practical, vocational training is needed. Economic growth is the imperative and there is no time to be lost. A month that marks Workers Day cannot truly be celebrated when more than six million are out of work...

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