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A youth unemployment crisis in South Africa? ‘50% of employees to be aged 18 to 35’

by on January 15, 2015

This article on the South African News 24 website, quotes the Deputy Minister, speaking at the start of a consultative process for a national youth policy this week, as saying that the Government wants ‘50% of all employees across all industries to be aged 18 to 35’.

It’s interesting to see how the justification for this is reported. First,  it’s said that South Africa needs more entrepreneurs and fewer ‘tenderpreneurs’ (I had to look this up, apparently it refers to someone in government who abuses their political power and influence to secure government tenders and contracts).  Does this reinforce the age stereotype that entrepreneurs are more likely to be young? Or the reverse, hence the need for 50% of ’employees’ to be young? I’m not sure but I think perhaps the former, as the next quote is that ‘We need young people with ideas’ which rather bolsters the notion of entrepreneurship being for the young. It doesn’t say why ‘older people with ideas’ aren’t expressly needed too.

The article then goes on to discuss South Africa’s youth unemployment issue which does sound highly problematic. Apparently, less than 4.3% of those aged 18-29 are enrolled in higher education in the country.  In South Africa, about 60% of those who are unemployed and under 35 years old have in fact never worked.

The reported age categories for the UK and South Africa don’t exactly map for some of these measures. So in the UK for 2013, ONS figures report that 42% of those aged 16-24 are in full time education which, even allowing for the different age categories, seems like a huge difference.  It would be interesting to know the percentage of the SA working age population aged between 18 and 35.  At a wider population level, these figures suggest that about 67% of South Africans are under 35 in contrast to the UK where the equivalent figure is about 44%.   So clearly some demographic differences but perhaps time to unpack some age stereotypes about who can do what to help the South African economy.

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