Ugly sta­tis­tics of youth un­em­ploy­ment

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

WE LIVE in the age of un­de­clared na­tional emer­gency of youth un­em­ploy­ment.

Many of our young peo­ple are un­em­ploy­able as a re­sult of an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that needs ur­gent fix­ing and a po­lit­i­cal cul­ture that ig­nores their plight.

A re­cent Stats SA study, “So­cial Pro­file of Youth”, found that the per­cent­age of black African pro­fes­sional, man­age­rial and tech­ni­cal work­ers aged be­tween 25 to 34 has dropped by 2% over the past 20 years.

The re­port led statis­ti­cian gen­eral Pali Le­hohla to con­clude: “When par­ents are bet­ter equipped than the chil­dren, it’s a sign of re­gres­sion.”

You must have a cold heart not to be touched by this sad re­al­ity. Or you must be like the cap­tured po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who shame­lessly en­rich their friends and fam­i­lies un­der the guise of rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion.

These ir­re­spon­si­ble lead­ers ex­pect young peo­ple who are hun­gry of op­por­tu­ni­ties to ul­u­late while they steal state re­sources meant for youth ad­vance­ment.

Or you must be like those who have taken the say­ing, “It’s our turn to eat” to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion by spend­ing mil­lions of ratepay­ers’ money on fast foods while our young peo­ple go hun­gry.

Those of us who un­der­stand the history of the strug­gles of young black peo­ple who con­fronted the apartheid gov­ern­ment in 1976 do our best to im­prove the lives of young peo­ple through prac­ti­cal pro­grammes.

The ugly sta­tis­tics keep us awake at night. Youth un­em­ploy­ment, at a his­toric high of 38.6%, is a na­tional emer­gency that re­quires re­spon­si­ble lead­er­ship in pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors.

The de­te­ri­o­rat­ing qual­ity of lead­er­ship in pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions could not have come at a worse time for our young peo­ple. As we see the des­per­a­tion in their faces ev­ery day, re­spon­si­ble lead­ers in all spheres of so­ci­ety should ask them­selves: how can we en­sure that the youth of to­day are bet­ter than those of yes­ter­day?

Par­ents should ask how they can en­sure that their chil­dren are bet­ter. Young peo­ple should also ask how they can do bet­ter than their par­ents. So­ci­ety pro­gresses when chil­dren do bet­ter than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

Mul­ti­ply­ing job creators should be top pri­or­ity in all sphere of gov­ern­ment and in all sec­tors of our so­ci­ety.

At Mid­vaal we ini­ti­ated a Kgatelopele project aimed at train­ing young peo­ple to do busi­ness with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to cre­ate jobs.

We are not obliv­i­ous to the short­com­ings of our train­ing in­sti­tu­tions. The Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan chal­lenges all sec­tors to fill the gaps left by our un­der-per­form­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing in­sti­tu­tions.

It ac­knowl­edges that uni­ver­si­ties, which face high drop-out rates and grad­u­ate stu­dents who are not ad­e­quately pre­pared for the labour mar­ket, no longer hold the monopoly of knowl­edge pro­duc­tion.

It also states that 65% of stu­dents in train­ing col­leges are un­able to find work ex­pe­ri­ence. And the Sec­tor Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Author­i­ties are hob­bled by their own in­ef­fi­cien­cies.

Al­though most of our uni­ver­si­ties don’t per­form ac­cord­ing to our ex­pec­ta­tions, those who grad­u­ate have a bet­ter chance to get a job. But the ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment rate of grad­u­ates means we have to keep re­flect­ing on how to as­sist grad­u­ates to be bet­ter pre­pared than their par­ents.

This means that other sec­tors, in­clud­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, should step up to the chal­lenge to close the skills gap and whet the ap­petite of young peo­ple to be en­trepreneurs.

This will not only as­sist with cre­at­ing job creators, but also nar­row our wide in­come in­equal­i­ties.

The high un­em­ploy­ment rate among young peo­ple is cou­pled with high lev­els of in­equal­ity, drug and al­co­hol abuse and a sense of lack of di­rec­tion.

The only ef­fec­tive way to deal de­ci­sively with un­em­ploy­ment, in­come in­equal­ity and poverty is through in­vest­ment in the train­ing of young peo­ple.

In his book Cap­i­tal in the Twen­tyFirst Cen­tury, French econ­o­mist Thomas Piketty says that in­equal­ity of in­come can be over­come through the dif­fu­sion of knowl­edge – that is, ed­u­ca­tion.

Re­spon­si­ble lead­ers who un­der­stand the chal­lenge posed by Piketty will en­sure that the dif­fu­sion of rel­e­vant knowl­edge among young peo­ple is fast­tracked and in­no­va­tion is re­warded.

The 19th cen­tury English econ­o­mist Al­fred Mar­shall was cor­rect to ob­serve that, “Al­though it is man’s wants in the ear­li­est stages of his de­vel­op­ment that give rise to his (eco­nomic) ac­tiv­i­ties, yet after­wards each new step up­wards is to be re­garded as the de­vel­op­ment of new ac­tiv­i­ties giv­ing rise to new wants, rather than of new wants giv­ing rise to new ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Put sim­ply, when the young man Mark Zucker­berg founded Face­book, no­body could claim they had wanted it be­cause it didn’t ex­ist.

It was only af­ter peo­ple had ex­pe­ri­enced it that they wanted it. In­vent­ing new ser­vices and prod­ucts will be cru­cial in what has been dubbed the fourth in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion.

Our youth must be glob­ally com­pet­i­tive to take part in the evo­lu­tion of new prod­ucts and ser­vices as in­ven­tors and work­ers.

A com­pet­i­tive youth will at­tract in­vestors who will be will­ing to fund the ger­mi­na­tion and growth of their in­no­va­tion.

Re­spon­si­ble lead­ers need to un­der­stand the cry of the youth, har­ness their en­er­gies and in­spire them with the ex­am­ple of good lead­er­ship. Baloyi is the mayor of Mid­vaal

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