Young economists want domestic economy to be restructured for youths' benefit

Georgina Tlhasedi and Kgosietsile Masega with their children Onkgolotse and Gontse in Piet Plessis, North West.
Georgina Tlhasedi and Kgosietsile Masega with their children Onkgolotse and Gontse in Piet Plessis, North West.
Image: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Young economists have called for the domestic economy to be restructured in a manner that would benefit black South African youth. Youth unemployment has been hovering around 50%, but the negative impact Covid-19 lockdown has had on jobs is likely to see a rise in youth unemployment figures.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in unemployment rate blowing over and policy-makers need to create a framework whereby even the skills that are available among the youth, try to look at industries that are labour-intensive to try to eradicate that specific problem. Policy-makers also need to create incentives for companies to employ more young graduates, because that is another segment that is going under a bit of pressure. It also becomes important to cultivate and look after young entrepreneurs as well as the SMEs that they bring by removing the barriers to market for those companies so that they are able to realise the economies of scale that they need..." said economist Rami Mohlakoane.

Mohlakoane, who believes unemployment is the biggest challenge facing the youth today, said government needs to come up with a 30-year economic plan which would prioritise the youth. "I'm of a belief that the economy needs to be restructured to the benefit of a generation of African youth that is coming up. However, the manner in which enterprises are encouraging capital monopoly doesn't allow for young African entrepreneurs to enter into those spaces. There needs to be the unlocking by destroying those value chains where we will see African farmers, for instances, (supplying produce to) retailers."

Mohlakoane advised that this plan should see youth who were not highly educated being channelled to sectors that were not skills intensive. "We have to identify what skills are required and what skills do we need. There are some sectors that are not skills intensive and you can quickly train young people into getting those spaces. The more professional spaces would require someone with academic qualifications.," he said.

He said the focus should be on sectors like agriculture and tourism, which are considered as jobs in the "grassroots levels" and might not need a vast amount of skills.

Another economist, Busi Sibeko, said there was a need to re-imagine the SA economy. "We need to go back to the building blocks to really understand who does the economy serve. Does the economy serve us or do we serve the economy?"

She said the domestic economy has largely disadvantaged black South Africans. "We also have to look at who has been advantaged by the economy and why."

Sibeko added that post-Covid-19 period there was going to be a need for a fiscal stimulus, where the government would need to spend more to an extent that the economy is structurally transformed to address inequalities. "We have been focusing on economic growth and addressing inequality as a side thing. Post-Covid economy should look at how do we structurally transform the economy and tackle inequality at the same time," she said.

Sibeko advised that funds should be channelled towards the care economy, which was largely a domain of women. "Children just don't become labour. Children need people to take care of them, they need care and these are primarily provided by women. There is a need to build infrastructure for the care economy, which would change how we think about the economy," she said. "We also need to stop being in denial about the failure of the current macro economic policy. We need to stop doing the same thing and hoping for different answers."

She also bemoaned that children's social grant, which is sitting at R445, and the R1,008 foster grant, were still below the poverty line of R1,227. "We need to go households... because households that are social grants recipients are likely to spend on the domestic economy."

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