Generation of job creators needed to get youth working

Image: Getty Images/Bloomberg/Naashon Zalk

It’s now officially Youth Month, the election season has come and gone, and promises were made, but the chronic ills of SA’s socio-economic discourse continue to plague its youth.

SA is described as an uppermiddle income, developing state within the geopolitical economic arena.

However, it is within that same characterisation that we analyse some of the social ills that hinder the progress of its economy and youth citizenry.

According to the World Bank (in 2019), SA’s Gini coefficient rates it as the country with the highest level of economic inequality in the world.

The World Bank states that after 25 years of democracy and promises of economic change, the state has officially failed to bridge the divide.

According to Stats SA, the first quarter of the financial year resulted in an alarming spike in the national unemployment rate from 27.1% to 27.6%.

The catastrophe lies in the fact that SA is a youthful country, but the overall rate of youth unemployment sits at a staggering 55%.

The situation gets even worse – Stats SA has also released a report on the national economy that showed it declined by a total of -3.2% in the first quarter of the year.

Things have become so dire that the ruling ANC declared unemployment a national disaster after its NEC lekgotla.

Statistics like these are a big red flag for current job seekers – and recent graduates in particular.

This requires thought leaders to not only identify some of the problems facing the country, but also to look at some possible interventions that may help the state in its fight against persistent levels of high unemployment.

SA could look at South Korea as a case study.

The South Korean Republic had high levels of youth unemployment just more than a decade ago.

The rates were between 10 and 14%.

Using these recorded statistics, the South Korean government declared youth unemployment a national crisis.

The South Korean government immediately passed an emergency “youth-centric” jobs plan and allocated US$3.5bn in resources for a programme that would be focused on spurring youth entrepreneurship and funding strategic job-creating projects in all sectors.

In the South African context, the government and its three spheres must form provincial entrepreneurship development councils that deal with key sectors in the various provinces.

They must include student entrepreneurship researchers, incubator managers, enterprise development practitioners, academics and SMME owners so as to draw on a diverse pool of skills, knowledge and generational understanding to help create a diverse and modern policy mix that will help provinces and SMMEs grow.

This council must develop a youth entrepreneurship strategy, youth fund and corporate and government set-asides for youth-owned businesses.

The state must remove the bottlenecks that hinder business progress, such as slow turnaround times of business registration and the compliance stringency.

Businesses must be registered free and within 24 hours.

Allocations to the NYDA and Seda must be increased by at least 40%, and be made easily accessible to student entrepreneurs in universities and TVETs as well as to townshipbased SMMEs.

The state must host an annual youth unemployment summit that will deal directly with the structural causes of youth unemployment, and must invite student/youth formations, academics, enterprise development practitioners, multinational companies, big business formations and unemployed graduates.

It must resolve to allocate resources to all resolutions of the summit.

It must increase the capacity and expand resource allocation to initiatives such as the YES programme and the Entrepreneurship Development Programme in Higher Education.

It must divert existing resources and enterprise development support from corporates to such initiatives as existing and aspiring entrepreneurs are readily available on institutional databases.

SA needs a generation of job creators and not just job-seeking graduates.

The South African government must also reconfigure and augment its educational value chain.

This can be done through integrating subjects such as coding, artificial intelligence (robotics) and entrepreneurship into the curriculum to modernise SA’s future skills base at both primary and secondary education level.

This will enable easier integration into existing programmes of innovation and entrepreneurship at higher education level.

Last, an intergovernmental directorate or council must be formed between the department of trade and industry, department of small business, and department of higher education training and science and technology.

This must encourage universities to allow student entrepreneurs to do business with university procurement levers, and also avail enterprise and supplier development opportunities for youth/studentowned businesses.

A national entrepreneurship policy integrated into the Higher Education Act must be passed in parliament that takes in all the listed and identified proposed solutions.

Jobs are being shed and in a month of June that is dedicated to youth, let us expand on not just diagnosing the nation’s ills, but strive to share ideas and solutions to these problems.

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