Having 64 percent of youth unemployed “is something no country can afford”, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said this to commemorate World Youth Day.
On this day, 45 years ago, school pupils protested against the mandatory use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in their schools. However, the protest quickly turned violent when the apartheid government’s police responded with live ammunition, leaving many school children dead.
Speaking virtually during a Youth Day commemoration, Ramaphosa said the economy was suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Nearly 64% of young people in South Africa are unemployed. This is something no country can afford. Young people are the force that drives a country and grows its economy. The challenge of youth unemployment can seem insurmountable.”
Ramaphosa was speaking virtually while Youth Day celebrations in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, took place.
The theme for Youth Day this year is “The year of Charlotte Maxeke: Growing youth employment for an inclusive and transformed society”.
He said his government was currently prioritising youth unemployment.
In the words of Ramaphosa:
” We are putting young people at the centre of our national recovery. It is the singular focus of this administration to ensure that young people are given access to opportunities so they can better themselves, that they can drive change in their communities, and contribute to our economy. As a government, we are driving a number of initiatives, some of which began before the pandemic.
Among the initiatives mentioned include the Presidential Employment Stimulus that began in October last year, the Youth Employment Service, known as YES, and an online platform called SAYouth.Mobi.
“We know that by providing young people with opportunities for work experience, by supporting them to start and grow their own businesses, by fixing our skills development system and by creating opportunities for work that serves the common good, we can make inroads into this challenge,” Ramaphosa said.
Two weeks ago, Stats SA released the national unemployment figures. It painted a grim picture, the highest unemployment rate among youth between 15 and 24 being 63.3%, and 41.3% for the age group 25 and 34.
National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) CEO Waseem Carrim spoke during the virtual briefing.
He said the statistics represented young people waking up in the morning and having nowhere to go.
“It represents the young person that wants to provide for their parents, but cannot do so because he or she cannot find a job. There are more stories of pain and suffering that are caused by youth unemployment.”