Politicians are traversing the length and breath of the land, making lavish and empty promises that they’ll promptly forget as soon as the votes are counted. No political party has tabled any tangible and viable plans to address unemployment, the single biggest issue affecting SA’s largest voting block — the youth.
People between the ages of 15 and 34 make up 36% of the population, says Statistics SA in its 2016 Community Survey.
Unemployed and mostly unemployable, these young people are at the forefront of the various election campaigns — useful pawns in the democratic power struggles of mostly old men and women.
Come election day, the knuckles of these young people will be swollen from knocking on doors to explain election messages they had little input in formulating.
They will derive even less benefit once the votes are counted. When that’s done, they will be free to go back to their life of poverty and unemployment.
Their old and largely corrupt party bosses (and a few youthful but equally corrupt and self-centred ones) will divide the spoils among themselves.
But it need not be like that. By its sheer numerical strength, at 20.1m, the youth is the most powerful voting block.
Yet Stats SA says this group makes up 70% of the unemployed.
The youth is the most under-represented group in any elected government structure, so their issues receive no serious consideration, even from those parties that claim to represent them.
I’m past my youthful days, but here’s how I’d tackle and solve the crisis of youth unemployment:
Last year, when I was obtaining some extra skills, one of my lecturers was Thabo Mosala, a strategy lecturer at local business schools. He proposed a manifesto that should be easy in its implementation and affordable. Education would be free up to master’s level at university. The state would fund only science, technical and commerce education.
Mosala earned his own doctorate. He proposes education should be paid for through the higher taxes that graduates would pay from their higher salaries.
That would require a collection agency with the efficiency of the SA Revenue Service.
To deal once and for all with youth unemployment, I would extend Mosala’s manifesto even further. I would draft these graduates in the sciences into compulsory national service for two years. After basic military training of a few months, these graduates would be sent to work in areas of their training within the military, the police or in municipalities.
That would solve three problems: to gain on-the-job training, to find skills for government and to repay the taxpayer funds employed for their education.
Lack of job experience is the biggest hindrance to accessing the job market. That would be a better way of spending the billions SA does spend policing the crime that is committed by their youthful but idle hands.
Technicians, engineers, doctors and lawyers thus trained and experienced would be themselves ready to create jobs after doing their national duty.
There is already more than enough money being wasted by the state to take the first generation of students through tertiary education.
Wits University, one of the country’s largest and most expensive by virtue of being based in Johannesburg, budgeted for R6.2bn expenditure in 2015.
Last year the auditor-general picked up R25.7bn in irregular and fruitless expenditure by state institutions. This is in addition to the resources that are being vainly poured in the bottomless drain that is SA Airways, the SABC, the SA Post Office ...
This manifesto, backed by strong political will, would do away with democratic SA’s worst crisis.