Address by Mr Stanley Ntapane, MP in the Parliamentary Youth Day Debate: Youth at the centres of economic Opportunities (04 June 2013)
Mr Speaker and honourable Members,
We commemorate Youth Day at a time when youth unemployment in South Africa has reached crisis levels. Facts and statistics on unemployment from Statistics South Africa’s latest Labour Force Survey show that unemployment for people between the ages of 15-34 in South Africa stands at 70.7 per cent. This means that more young people are idle than ever before.
This high rate of youth unemployment is a ticking time bomb that threatens to worsen political instability in South Africa, as millions of young people are not only jobless but have also lost hope about ever finding a job.
There are numerous contributing factors to this challenge. The most obvious one, however, is the poor quality of our basic education system. The South African education system is failing to equip our youth with basic skills.
Unless Government improves the education system, unemployment will be an albatross around our necks for many years to come.
Whilst fixing our education system is a medium to long-term project, there are a number of immediate interventions Government can make to remove the youth from the periphery of economic activity.
For instance, in some developing countries Governments invest significant resources in the professionalisation and development of informal sector businesses. This has helped to reduce youth unemployment and unemployment in general and could work in South Africa as well.
We are aware that channelling youth to the informal sector is not a panacea for the youth unemployment problem, but it does serve as an important source employment. Furthermore, a thriving informal sector would ensure that the youth are able to contribute to the economy, albeit less effectively than they could be.
However, such measures are possible only if Government depoliticises youth development organisations, such as the National Youth Development Agency in order to ensure that they effectively discharge their mandates.
All in all, to diminish the chronic youth unemployment problem, Government needs to adopt economic policies that ignite economic growth and build an education system capable of unleashing the potential of the South African economy.