Ugly statistics of youth unemployment
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