The month of June, which is dedicated to the heroism of our youth against the apartheid regime, started in a sorry state. This after the Quarterly Labour Force Survey revealed the most shocking statistics about the jobs bloodbath in our country, particularly for the youth. The Stats SA data revealed that the official unemployment rate among the youth – those aged between 15 and 34 – was 46%.  This is coupled with independent research which puts youth unemployment above 70%.

This is astonishing given that the government has in the past launched a number of initiatives in trying to curb youth unemployment.  What we should be asking is how far those initiatives have yielded the desired results in dealing with the problem.

These initiatives include the Youth Employment Services, the Presidential Youth Employment Initiatives, the Gauteng government’s Tshepo One Million, and many more. The fundamental problem with all these initiatives is that they are not streamlined and they are not talking to each other. Instead, they are competing against each other. Huge amounts of money are being spent by the government in launching and administering these initiative, with few results to show how many of our youth break into the sustainable job market.

Until we streamline these initiatives and make sure that there’s synergy and collaboration, we will never deal with youth unemployment. All spheres of government from national to municipal level should ensure that there is collaboration geared towards ensuring that all these initiatives are harnessed and co-ordinated at the central level.

The role of the private sector will also be crucial in ensuring that their initiatives to curb youth unemployment are linked with the government’s initiatives. With the commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the June 16 uprising coming up soon, leaders of political parties across the divide will be crisscrossing the country promising young people that jobs and opportunities will be created. We owe it to the generation of June 16, 1976, that we deal urgently with the ticking time bomb of youth unemployment.

Enough with promises and platitudes – we need tangible solutions to deal with this crisis. Can we make June 16 a report-back session with measurable statistics on how far we have dealt with the issue of youth unemployment instead of the ritual and rhetoric that normally characterises this commemoration? 

Mafika Siphiwe Mgcina, ANC Sedibeng regional task team coordinator, writing in his personal capacity.

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