South Africa — About 600 000 matrics will complete their schooling this month. But what are their chances of finding employment? More than 40% of young people under the age of 30 are jobless, compared with less than 17% of adults over 30.
The government has therefore devised a number of employment programmes specifically targeting youth in both urban and rural areas.
Job creation, particularly to address unemployment among young people, remains one of the key priorities of President Jacob Zumas administration.
This is in view of the fact that only one in eight working-age adults in South Africa under 25 years old has a job, compared with 40% in most emerging economies.
Since December 2008, employment of youth between 18 and 24 years old has fallen by more than 20% (320000 jobs).
Unemployed young people tend to be less skilled and experienced, with almost 86% lacking further training or tertiary qualifications, while two-thirds have never worked.
On returning from the G20 Summit in France recently, President Jacob Zuma said that South Africa was pleased with the summits commitment to renew efforts to combat unemployment and promote decent jobs.
G20 leaders made a commitment that youth and others who are particularly adversely affected by the global financial crisis would receive special attention.
The focus on job creation is in line with South Africas own domestic focus on economic transformation to promote inclusive growth and decent jobs, said Zuma.
The government has developed a number of employment programmes specifically targeting youth. These include the Community Work Programme (CWP) run by the Department of Cooperative and Traditional Affairs and the National Rural Youth Service Corps programme run by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
The cabinet has agreed to increase the Community Work Programme to 1 million positions over the next two years.
Some 80% of participants in the programme are young people. The overall goal of the CWP is to reach one in five young people struggling to find jobs.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reforms Youth Service Corps has seen more than 7500 young people drawn from different wards in rural areas being trained in two years.
The aim is to nearly triple this number to 20000 in collaboration with the Department of Defence.
The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) continues to create jobs for youth. Last year, the programme created job opportunities for 120000 people and this is set to increase to 180000 by next year.
The Department of Water Affairs in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Affairs has established a number of programmes under the EPWP, which target youth and unemployed rural people.
Working on Fire and Working for Water are programmes aimed at conserving water, preventing veld fires and protecting the environment through the removal of invasive alien species.
Last year, more than 100000 people participated, with the number expected to double by 2012.
The Department of Basic Education, through its Kha Ri Gude Mass Literary Campaign, runs the largest employment programme involving close to 40000 young volunteers. This year alone, they provided Adult Basic Education and Training to more than 600000.
The government is also establishing internships equal to 5% of the public service by 2013, targeting unemployed qualified graduates.
As a first stage, the number of interns in the public service will be increased to 3% or around 40000 positions in 2012.
This will take the number of interns in the public service to more than five times the present levels.
Internship is a planned, structured and managed programme that provides work experience for a specific period varying from three to 12 months.
It gives students workplace experience and the opportunity to practise the work skills they have studied.
This will increase their chances of finding permanent jobs, growing South Africas economy as a whole and paving the way towards a brighter tomorrow.