Current ANC government policy dooms young people to unemployment, says a new report from the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).

The special IRR report on unemployment ‘has established that 56.4% of South Africans aged 24-34 are not in employment, education or training (NEET)’, noting that of the 10.4 million in this age range, 5.6 million endure NEET status.

The report shows how policy dooms young people to unemployment, but also points to practical steps that are needed to reverse this mounting disaster.

Says IRR head of campaigns Gabriel Crouse: ‘If you put the entire unemployment line in a row, each person standing a metre apart, it would stretch from Cape Town to Cairo. If people could stand on the ocean that line would continue all the way to St Petersburg.’

In a statement, the IRR says that ‘(structural) unemployment set in roughly 13 years ago’.

‘Between 2003 and 2008 the number of unemployed people on the expanded definition came down from 8 million to 6.1 million. That means 1.9 million jobs were created. During this period GDP growth averaged 4.5%.

‘However, in the Zuma-era that followed, unemployment went from 6.1 million to 9.3 million. Then President Cyril Ramaphosa took over and unemployment worsened to 10.4 million before the pandemic. At least 1.9 million jobs were lost during the pandemic. International comparisons show that jobs have returned in rationally managed countries that are similarly poor, dispelling the myth that Covid-19 can be blamed for jobs not coming back yet.’

Three components to structural unemployment since 2008 are identified in the report.  

‘First, the public education system, which is the world’s worst on a bang-for-buck basis, is only able to take 4% of children entering grade one through to a 60% pass mark in matric mathematics twelve years later. This can be turned around rapidly through a voucher system, as detailed in the report.

‘Second, while the government is prepared to pay workers R12,75 per hour, Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has made it illegal for private contracts at below R23,19 per hour. This is the highest National Minimum Wage relative to the median wage in the world and effectively puts half the workforce at hazard. This red tape must be cut so that young South Africans are free to work.

‘Third, racialism dominates the policy agenda. The Employment Equity Amendment Bill (EEB) will impose racial prequalification criteria and will allow public-sector-style race quotas to be forced onto the private sector. This alienates the entrepreneurship and investment most youth depend on to get jobs. President Cyril Ramaphosa should veto the unconstitutional EEB.’

The statement notes that every survey commissioned by the Institute of Race Relations in the last decade indicates that unemployment is considered by most people to be the country’s number one problem.

It concludes: ‘Without a policy change the government might as well commemorate June 16 by saying, “Happy Youth Day, you will never get a job.”’