QUINTUS SLIEP | Corporates need to turn tide on youth joblessness

TES providers can play a key role with skills and development initiatives

Don't give up job-hunting when work is hard to find.
Don't give up job-hunting when work is hard to find.
Image: Graphic: RUBY GAY MARTIN/ File photo

SA has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. In the first quarter of 2023, the unemployment rate for people aged 25-34 was 39.1%, which means that for every 100 young people in this age group, only 61 are employed.

Such a staggering unemployment rate can be attributed to a few factors including global uncertainty, an economic downturn, and a growing mismatch between skills and demand. Though our government has taken several steps to address youth unemployment, it is critical that every business, industry and sector acknowledge that we all have a role to play in turning the tide on this growing crisis.

Temporary Employment Services (TES) providers can play a key role in facilitating the integration of young people across sectors, through skills and development initiatives that focus on training and equipping the future of the workforce for every industry.

The youth unemployment crisis has several negative consequences for young people, their families and the country, perpetuating cycles of poverty, leading to increased crime and contributing to social unrest. The South African government has taken a few steps to address the youth unemployment crisis, such as the National Youth Development Agency, which is a government agency responsible for the promotion of youth development through skills development programmes, entrepreneurship programmes and job placement programmes. 

The Youth Employment Service (YES) is a programme that provides young people with 12-month work opportunities to gain work experience, develop skills and improve their chances of finding permanent employment. Additionally, this is underpinned by the Employment Tax Incentive to encourage businesses to hire young people, providing businesses with a tax rebate and B-BBEE points for every young person they hire.

Despite these efforts, the youth unemployment crisis in SA remains a serious problem, strongly suggesting the social responsibility that lies in the private sector industries to take action and actively advocate for youth employment. In doing so, businesses can play a critical role in addressing the injustices of the past and building a more equitable society, while reaping commercial benefits such as improved operational performance, enhanced business reputation and ensuring the future sustainability of the skills and labour necessary for commerce.

TES suppliers occupy a unique position in the labour market, ideally positioned to engage with all relevant stakeholders to address the youth unemployment crisis, and are located between employers and employees, within reach of various government youth development initiatives and the education sector. TES providers can act as a catalyst and conduit for change.

From a young jobseekers perspective, TES suppliers are a means to access training programmes and upskilling opportunities that can enhance individual employability. This can help fill the gap between the demand and supply of the skills needed to revitalise the South African economy, equipping job seekers with the necessary skills for current and future job demands.

From an employer perspective, TES suppliers can offer flexible workforce solutions that enable companies to scale their workforce size and composition in response to fluctuating demands. This flexibility can help businesses optimise costs while still providing work opportunities to individuals who may otherwise struggle to find full-time employment.

Additionally, TES suppliers can help to drive youth employment and skills development in SA by actively seeking to collaborate with educational institutions to provide young people with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce.

Continued monitoring of SAs unemployment statistics, especially among the youth, is crucial to evaluate the effectiveness of all measures. Despite post-pandemic obstacles, the adaptability and resilience of the South African workforce continue to shine through. TES suppliers can play an active role in turning desperation into hope.

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