Understanding Local Level Realities of Young South Africans as Part of Not Leaving Them Behind

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Whilst President Cyril Ramaphosa committed himself to bringing South Africa’s youth to the centre of economic activity in his inaugural State of the Nation Address, SALDRU Chief Research Officer, Ariane De Lannoy, has been at the front of youth research under the auspices of UCT’s Poverty and Inequality Initiative and the Mandela Initiative.

“Young South Africans will be moved to the centre of our economic agenda,” said President Ramaphosa in his first State of the Nation Address. This new focus on youth should see one million young people placed in paid internships or new job opportunities. However, SALDRU’s research demonstrates that a thorough understanding of local area dynamics is necessary and that different strategies across the country will be needed to ensure that all young people can be brought into job opportunities that match their skill levels.

Indeed, to be successful new job opportunities have to match young people’s skills profiles. Despite significant progress in access to education in the post-apartheid period, education levels remain low and remarkably unequal. This has consequences for The Presidency’s plans.

The president also pointed out progress in the post-apartheid education system with the matric pass rate increasing from 60.6 percent in 2009 to 75.1 percent last year. However, the real issues with South Africa’s education system remain hidden behind these overall matric pass rates.

Newly uploaded data on SALDRU’s Youth Explorer show that by the age of 20-24, only 45% of young South Africans have, in fact, completed matric or a matric equivalent and only 6 % have completed some form of tertiary education. However, this matric qualification, and especially higher education degrees, remain key in finding access to the labour market. Creating access to high quality education, as well as job opportunities that are accessible for those without a matric will therefore be critical to really include most young people.

The Youth Explorer also allows for these outcomes to be mapped at a more granular level by province and municipality.

The map below reveals extreme disparities across the country (darker colours show municipalities with better outcomes for youth, lighter colours show worse outcomes). For instance, only 17.2% of 20-24 year old youth in Ntabankulu municipality in the Eastern Cape Province have completed matric or a matric equivalent while this is 60.7% in eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal.

Map: Youth aged 20-24 who have completed matric or matric equivalent by municipality

Affluent urban areas in the Gauteng and Western Cape Provinces also do much better than township and rural areas, especially in former homeland areas in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

Recognising the need to understand the differences in outcomes and quality of life that otherwise remain hidden by provincial averages, the Western Cape Government has recently applied the Youth Explorer to identify municipalities and wards that house higher proportions of deprived youth. In order to assess the effectiveness of the Provincial Youth Development Strategy, a smaller scale, in-depth study was conducted in some of these poorest areas and findings placed alongside the Youth Explorer data. The combined quantitative data and qualitative data will be used to inform the design of an integrated implementation plan of the province’s Youth Development Strategy. Findings indicate, among many others, the need to provide adequate support for youth to increase their literacy and numeracy levels, and to provide clearer connections between youth, school and “the world of work” if the Province is to meet the goals it sets itself in the Youth Development Strategy. They illustrate the need to do so with a clear understanding of other, local aspects such as safety – or the lack thereof – and the sense of isolation, especially in some of the more rural wards of the province.

In other words, these sub-national and sub-provincial analyses allow for the identification of municipalities that need extra attention and of the domains of life in which these interventions are necessary. They are crucial in the design of plans that aim to ensure that none of our young “Fellow South Africans” are left behind in the new plans going forward.

It is clear that there is a need for highly diversified approaches to skills development and employment creation, and that different youth profiles require different and carefully targeted responses from The Presidency.

Visit the Youthexplorer.org.za for more youth indicators at sub-national levels. The tool provides simple data visualisations and allows for further interactive exploration of the data.