Quandary about jobs for youth

OPIN­ION

CityPress - - News - JORGE MAIA news@city­press.co.za

The cre­ation of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, swiftly and sus­tain­ably, re­mains the fun­da­men­tal in­ter­ven­tion needed to in­te­grate South Africa’s un­em­ployed youth into the for­mal econ­omy.

Sub­dued rates of eco­nomic growth since the 2008/09 re­ces­sion and the rel­a­tively weak per­for­mances of key labour-in­ten­sive seg­ments of the econ­omy have fur­ther com­pro­mised its labour-ab­sorp­tion ca­pac­ity. This is not sim­ply a func­tion of the eco­nomic cy­cle, but is also re­flec­tive of dis­tinct and deep struc­tural prob­lems.

South Africa’s youth has been most af­fected and the chal­lenge has been in­ten­si­fy­ing as new en­trants join the labour force year af­ter year. An ex­pand­ing youth pop­u­la­tion rel­a­tive to the over­all pop­u­la­tion, com­bined with a de­cline in the youth’s share of to­tal em­ploy­ment, re­sulted in higher youth un­em­ploy­ment rates over time.

While rel­a­tively low lev­els of education among the youth tend to re­duce their em­ploy­a­bil­ity, the per­sis­tently high youth un­em­ploy­ment rate also re­flects the mis­match be­tween the skills of job­seek­ers and those re­quired by the econ­omy.

In an econ­omy that is in­creas­ingly re­quir­ing higher lev­els of qual­ity education and spe­cialised skills, un­em­ploy­ment rates are no­tice­ably higher for youth than for adults, across all education lev­els. Fur­ther­more, em­ploy­a­bil­ity rises with the level of education, but the suc­cess rates are sub­stan­tially higher for those who are 35 years of age and older.

The In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion’s re­search team has an­a­lysed youth em­ploy­ment trends across nine broad sec­tors of the South African econ­omy to as­cer­tain re­cent de­vel­op­ments in their labour ab­sorp­tion and youth par­tic­i­pa­tion in their over­all em­ploy­ment.

We also aimed to iden­tify the po­ten­tial for in­te­grat­ing un­em­ployed youth within the work­forces of th­ese broad sec­tors in the years ahead. The sec­tors were ranked ac­cord­ing to the ex­pected po­ten­tial for youth em­ploy­ment cre­ation over the next few years. The sec­tors con­sid­ered to hold the high­est po­ten­tial to cre­ate jobs for youth are ser­vices re­lated, with busi­ness ser­vices ex­pected to achieve the most gains by a large mar­gin. This would in­clude op­por­tu­ni­ties cre­ated through the es­tab­lish­ment of youthowned en­ter­prises across var­i­ous types of busi­ness ser­vices. Al­though ad­versely af­fected by the un­favourable eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment in the short term, the trade (retail and whole­sale), cater­ing and ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tor was also ex­pected to cre­ate a sub­stan­tial num­ber of job op­por­tu­ni­ties for the youth in the years ahead.

The sec­tors that show mod­er­ate po­ten­tial for job cre­ation for the youth are govern­ment and so­cial ser­vices, build­ing con­struc­tion and agri­cul­ture, forestry and fish­ing. Th­ese sec­tors have the ca­pac­ity to em­ploy young un­skilled and semi­skilled work­ers.

The pro­vi­sion of ser­vices to com­mu­ni­ties by mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties may also bring about em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in ar­eas where the un­em­ployed youth are re­sid­ing, lim­it­ing the need for eco­nomic mi­gra­tion.

The agri­cul­tural sec­tor is still one of the most labour­in­ten­sive sec­tors of the econ­omy. Al­though af­flicted by the worst drought on record, this sec­tor is uniquely po­si­tioned to ab­sorb un­skilled young work­ers mostly in ru­ral ar­eas, while also in­creas­ing food se­cu­rity and ru­ral in­come lev­els.

The sub­sec­tors that are en­vis­aged to cre­ate job op­por­tu­ni­ties in­clude the high-val­ued agri­cul­tural sub­sec­tors such as fruits and veg­eta­bles. How­ever, the em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in agri­cul­ture could be of a more sea­sonal na­ture.

Our em­ploy­ment pro­jec­tions in­di­cate that the po­ten­tial held by man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors is gen­er­ally more lim­ited, rel­a­tive to ser­vice- and agri­cul­ture-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties, due to their higher cap­i­tal-in­ten­sity, op­er­a­tional and other com­pet­i­tive­ness chal­lenges.

How­ever, op­por­tu­ni­ties for youth em­ploy­ment do ex­ist in var­i­ous in­dus­tries.

Global ex­pe­ri­ence has also shown that in­creas­ing the skills lev­els of the youth and/or as­sist­ing them to ob­tain, or pos­si­bly even pro­vid­ing, ini­tial em­ploy­ment ex­pe­ri­ence are a means to­wards im­prov­ing their em­ploy­a­bil­ity.

A range of poli­cies, strate­gies and mech­a­nisms are in place in South Africa to sup­port skills de­vel­op­ment, among other im­por­tant fac­tors, so as to en­hance the em­ploy­a­bil­ity of the youth. What is re­quired in many in­stances is ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion.

How­ever, ad­dress­ing youth un­em­ploy­ment in the ab­sence of an over­ar­ch­ing un­em­ploy­ment strat­egy will not achieve the de­sired ef­fect, as a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stud­ies have in­di­cated that youth un­em­ploy­ment is highly cor­re­lated to to­tal un­em­ploy­ment.

Maia is head of re­search and in­for­ma­tion at the IDC

JORGE MAIA

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