Leader’s Newsletter: Government must establish an enabling environment for youth empowerment

By James Masango, MP and Provincial Leader:

This month, the country is celebrating Youth Month in remembrance of the youth of 1976 who fought bravely against Afrikaans being imposed as a medium of instruction in schools under the apartheid regime.

South Africans, and the youth in particular, have come a long way since then and yes, we certainly are in a better place today than we were 21 years ago but our hard earned democracy is not without its challenges. Today, South Africans are confronted with the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

According to Statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate rose to  26,4 % in the first quarter of this year meaning that , of the nearly 36-million employable people, only 15,5-million are currently employed, 5,5 million are not working and the rest are not economically active.

In Mpumalanga, the picture is even bleaker with the unemployment rate increasing from 26.6% in the last quarter of 2014 to 28.4% in the first quarter of 2015.

The Trade, Agriculture and Mining sectors, three of Mpumalanga’s top job producers have shed 12 000, 11 000 and 20 000 jobs respectively.

These numbers force me to ask the question, where will today’s youth find employment?

For a long time, the DA has championed the implementation of the Youth Wage Subsidy as an incentive for business owners to employ young people, giving them the skills and experience needed to contribute to the country’s economy.

The government responded by implementing the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI), a watered-down version of the Youth Wage subsidy, hoping that it would promote employment for young people and create jobs in special economic zones once the relevant legislation had been promulgated.

In order to properly address youth unemployment, the government must create real incentives for the private sector to take on first time-employees and get more involved in skills development and training.

Not only do we need strong policies to bring about a significant decrease in youth unemployment, but the government must ensure that those tasked with the implementation of these polices have the capacity to plan, organise, lead and control the entire process.

Another way the government can address youth unemployment is to focus its attention to the country’s slow economic growth rate by creating an environment for businesses to thrive. This will allow young people who have gained the skills and experience through the proper implementation of the Youth Wage Subsidy to create their own employment opportunities.

Across the province, it is becoming all too common to see educated young people sitting at home with their qualifications because it is extremely difficult for them to find employment.

In municipalities that are further away from economic hubs like Mbombela and eMalahleni, the youth have become despondent because for them it is a struggle to access information on higher education or alternative job opportunities. Albert Luthuli, Nkomazi, Bushbuckridge, Thembisile Hani and Dr. J.S Moroka municipalities don’t only struggle with internet access but also network problems which further puts the youth in those areas at a disadvantage.

Things that we take for granted like internet access or university enrolment forms are not easily accessible in most rural areas. This only proves how wide the gap still is between urban and rural youth, which shows the levels of inequality. This cannot be the legacy that is attributed to the youth of 2015.

As Youth Month draws to a close, we owe it to the youth to get them employed through finding workable solutions to youth unemployment.