The State of youth: Labour market status & policy challenges

Research Report. Centre for Poverty Employment and Growth, Human Sciences Research Council

South Africa’s demographic profile and its youth bulge provide a unique opportunity for reducing poverty rates over the next decade, and fundamentally changing the structure of the labour force. Doing this, however, requires deliberate policies and interventions to address the needs of young people in the post-apartheid labour markets. Altman and Potgieter-Gqubule examine reasons for focusing on the youth labour market, including the need to avoid creating new generations of long-term unemployed people. More specifically, they assess how investment in young people can help South Africa benefit from the demographic dividend of an expanded labour force and lower dependency rates. The paper also reviews the policies in place to address these challenges. Although impressive in number and variety, these policies do not meet the need for ‘joined-up policy and implementation far in excess’ of what is required. The challenge is therefore to ensure a coordinated strategy, with large-scale and targeted interventions, that builds on existing initiatives. If these challenges are not addressed, they will continue to have a negative effect on the quality of life and security of all South African citizens for generations to come.