Youth Labour Market Challenges in South Africa

by ALTMAN, M., 2007
Research Report, Employment Growth & Development Initiative, Human Sciences Research Council

Altman identifies labour market challenges facing South African youth, in view of the high chance of long-term unemployment among young people. She assesses labour market dynamics, questioning whether the economy is creating low-skill jobs, whether education improves people’s chances in the labour market, and whether graduate unemployment is a problem because young people study inappropriate subject areas. She also looks at the effect of weak networks, limited work experience and poor health status on young people’s participation in the labour market. The paper considers the future of work for young South Africans, which is likely to be in low-paid, low-skill and precarious service sectors, such as retail, restaurants, office cleaning, and the like. Although acknowledging that the informal sector will offer some employment opportunities, it also shows that this sector is unlikely to act as a major source of employment growth. The paper further shows that government can play an important role. In the current policy frame, public sector employment will be beneficial mainly to graduates. Public works will become an important source of job opportunities for a large group of marginalised youth. For example, opportunities abound in community-based social service delivery, which has a strong gender and rural bias. The paper concludes with a set of policy challenges.