Research Nugget

Youth Unemployment in South Africa: Drivers and interventions

According to Statistics SA, the official unemployment rate among young people aged 15 – 34 years was at 46.3% in the first quarter of 2021. Despite efforts by Government and other stakeholders, youth unemployment in South Africa remains high. Research partly funded by the NRF reviewed about 11 000 articles and 182 research reports from research organisations and experts studying the field to better understand the causes of youth unemployment and interventions that have sought to address it. With a focus on micro-level factors driving youth unemployment, the study found that:

  • Despite having a higher level of education than their parents, prospects for employment of youth are not better and the education system fails to adequately provide youth with even basic skills that employers require such as literacy and numeracy;
  • Young people wait longer in the labour market queue, particularly for their first job and lack of experience is a major reason for youth unemployment;
  • Schools offer little career guidance, leading to youth lacking information on matching skills and interests to their chosen school subjects;
  • Young people lack social networks which can help leverage information-gathering on the education, labour market, job availability and job access. A large proportion of youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) live in households where no one is employed; and
  • Youth are discouraged and discouragement rates are rising.

Given that multiple forces are at play in shaping young people’s access to the job market, the study recommends that a range of coordinated and integrated interventions which address skills, social capital and information gaps that young people face are necessary. Other recommendations include a more focus on employer-behaviour and hiring preferences; a better understanding of the complexities of mental health; discouragement; labour market engagement; and assessing how to address the gendered inequalities that persist.

A detailed summary of the study was published on the December 2021 issue of Science Matters Magazine and is available here

The high level overview report of the study published October 2018 can be can be accessed here