Deputy Minister Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize: Webinar on the National Youth Policy Review in the context of COVID-19, “Unlocking Opportunities for Youth Employment”
Programme Director, Mr Tshepang Segage
Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disability, Mme Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, represented here today by her Advisor Mr Mokone.
Acting Director General, Dr Annette Griessel;
Acting Chief Director: Youth, Dr Bernice Hlagala
Distinguished Panelists and Guests;
Youth of South Africa, and Everyone joining through the various platforms,
It should be stated from the onset, that we are gathered here to discuss a policy targeting a key part of the population – our youth who constitute 37% of it. We have an opportunity to utilise them as an asset for change and development in our society.
Our young people continue to face serious challenges, and key amongst them is the problem of unemployment. It is not an understatement that this challenge has reached crisis proportions – the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2020 shows that unemployment stood at 30.1%, which is the highest jobless rate since 2008. Moreover, the unemployment rate of youth aged 25-34 was more than double that of the age group 45-54 (37.3% vs 17.5%). It gets worse when you look at the unemployment rate amongst the youth aged between 15 and 24 which stands at 59.0%. That is almost 6 out of every ten young people.
This picture is gloomier, when we consider the staggering numbers of those who are not in employment, education or training (NEET), they are approximately 3.5 million with ages 15 to 24. Unemployment rates are typically higher for young women, while youth in rural areas face different challenges from those in urban areas. In addition, young people with disabilities continue to face enormous challenges in the labour market as they are high often socially excluded and marginalized.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not just statistics, when you put faces to the numbers, then the problem becomes real. These are people with hopes, dreams and capacities, who could be contributing to their communities and their country. We know that the lockdown as a result of COVID-19 will likely intensify the problem and threaten livelihoods. It is in this context that we convened the webinar to finalise the consultation process of the National Youth Policy 2030. It is obvious to us that the context presented by the COVID-19 cannot be ignored, we need to be alive to the implications presented by the ‘new normal’ and incorporate these into our policies and strategies.
The National Youth Policy prioritises 5 pillars in order to strengthen holistic youth development. One of the key pillars, the National Youth Policy advocates for is Economic Transformation, Entrepreneurship and Job Creation. In this regard, the proposed interventions entail:
- Restructuring the South African economy;
- A basic income grant to help youth while they search for work;
- Identifying the earning opportunities and economic pathways available in the economy;
- Rapid acceleration of the transition of young people into productive economic activity and livelihoods;
- Accelerating demand-supply matching and inclusive youth absorption in the short term; and
- Better coordination of our efforts to realise scale and impact on young people, among others.
In addition, the current wave of the 4IR has implications on the future of work for the youth, educational systems and industrial policies. While there are predictions of major disruptions to the traditional work structure and the obsolescence of educational systems, there is scope for employment creation opportunities, presented by technology. Therefore, ours is to try and seize these opportunities, for the majority of young people, who find themselves in a difficult position of transitioning into adulthood. We all know that, for every young person, having a job, is an important step in towards independence and self-reliance and is also often the main means for attaining a better life.
For the country to bring about substantial and sustainable change, we all need to consider levers to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Youth is one of the crucial stages of life which is a vehicle for change. Decisive political will is required to reduce youth unemployment through economic and other reforms, to ensure positive results in the short, medium and long term.
I am very pleased that our Department has partnered with various numerous stakeholders, including United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA), government departments, private sector and civil society, including young people themselves, to produce this final Draft National Youth Policy (NYP) 2030 for the South African youth sector. I am especially proud of the extensive consultations, which took over nearly six months, and culminated into the document we have today.
The provisions of this policy will guide implementation of youth priorities in the country for the next ten years. In the spirit of the Intergovernmental Relations Framework, and as we strive to build a strong social compact, let us ensure that that the policy implementation becomes a strong advocacy tool that changes the lives of young people.
The key purpose of the policy is to advocate for youth mainstreaming to ensure that issues of youth are not over-shadowed nor do they become an afterthought to decision makers. For the first time, South Africa has a department that focuses on the mainstreaming of youth, together with a focus on issues of women and persons with disabilities.
The scale of the problem of youth unemployment, and systemic barriers that sustain exclusion of young people into the economy, requires innovative pathways into the economy. Not only is the number of youth who are unemployed high (almost six million young people want to work but don’t have a job), but the rate of youth unemployment is getting higher. It is for this reason that we warmly welcomed the announcement in the SONA of February 2020 of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (PYEI), as well as the notable financial allocation towards it during the Supplementary Budget by Minister Mboweni.
The PYEI aims to address South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis, through measures that both stimulate and incentivise the creation of jobs that better match the profile of young people, whilst simultaneously supporting young people to become more employable and entrepreneurial.
It is clear that the National Youth Policy provides us with an opportunity to make a dent in addressing this stubborn youth unemployment challenge. However, we can successfully do that if we all commit to a united effort, working with youth, to deal with the challenges they face. It means that government, private sector, civil society and development partners must all joint hands to address youth unemployment, in particular since its ripple effects are long-term, and can generate frustration, low self-esteem, and may lead to increased vulnerability, of young people to drugs, diseases and crime as well as permanent marginalization and exclusion. All these have can impose large economic costs for the society.
As we conclude the youth month, I commit myself, to support the Department’s Youth Development Branch in monitoring implementation of this policy optimally. This is important as it will ensure responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of the youth. We therefore invite you to deliberate sharply envisaged pathways to the world of work.
I thank you!
Mr Pelane Mabula-Phakgadi (Spokesperson for Deputy Minister Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize)
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