08 September 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to speak at your conference on a matter that is critical to our country’s prosperity and progress.
Please accept my apologies for not being there in person.
Youth unemployment is a global challenge, but it is particularly prominent in African countries, where youth often make up the majority.
This is the case in South Africa, which has a formal youth unemployment rate of 36%.
Social mobility constraints, a shortage of suitable skills, poverty and inequality are among the factors that contribute to this situation.
Where jobs are available they are often menial. Young people from disadvantaged communities struggle to access opportunities and remain marginalised.
Many school leavers do not have the financial means or social networks to access work opportunities in the formal economy.
At the same time, employers experience challenges in meeting their skills needs.
They struggle to recruit, retain and develop young employees, who often lack the necessary functional competence and work experience.
We need to break the cycle of exclusion and inequality.
We need to harness their potential and unearth their latent talents.
Though the situation appears dire, we can draw encouragement from the many young South Africans who are demonstrating initiative, a willingness to work hard, and a determination to overcome the circumstances into which they were born.
They demand nothing more than an opportunity – a chance to work – so that they can break the inter-generational cycle of poverty.
We hear them.
South Africa’s National Development Plan has put forward various interventions to address this problem.
We are focusing our efforts on ensuring that we grow our economy, creating jobs and providing young people with productive opportunities.
We are also promoting entrepreneurship.
Education is at the centre of our efforts.
It is the most effective means that we have to establish a platform for sustained employment creation.
We need to complement our focus on education with vocational guidance, mentoring support and mechanisms to match people’s skills to appropriate opportunities.
On the demand side we are looking at employment tax incentives, supplier development programmes, entrepreneurship incubators, and employment services and work-seeker support.
We therefore welcome and commend initiatives like Harambee, which complement the services provided by the Department of Labour and other government agencies.
These initiatives are succeeding in creating the link between unemployed youth and jobs. By tackling barriers to access and investing in work readiness, these initiatives are making an immeasurable contribution to increasing youth employment.
We look forward to enhancing such partnerships and encourage social partners to join hands in an effort to scale them up and implement them more robustly.
We call on employers to rise to the challenge by taking on first time employees and providing effective management support and mentorship support to young employees.
If given proper support and direction, employers will discover that the energy and enthusiasm of these young people can be harnessed to improve the effectiveness of their business.
By broadening our labour pool, we will be able to stimulate growth in the economy and improve our competitiveness.
To advance inclusive youth employment, we all need to play our part.
We need to tackle this with a sense of urgency.
We need bold action and courageous leadership.
This conference is an opportunity to find a common purpose.
It should help us forge meaningful partnerships.
For it is on such partnerships that we can build a social compact for fundamental change.
Masimanyane. Let us work. There is no time like the present.
I thank you.