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Extent of SA’s skills shortage laid bare

Extent of SA’s skills shortage laid bare

Poor education levels compounded by high unemployment within their families is hampering the future of South Africa’s youth.


In its latest research on the youth labour market‚ looking at people in the 15–34 age bracket‚ Statistics SA said the youth account for a larger share (55%) of the country’s working-age population than adults (45%) and their labour market situation is generally worse than adults.

“They bore the brunt of the global economic crisis and the subsequent sluggish employment recovery‚” Stats SA said in a release today. “As a result of the recession‚ the unemployment rate among youth rose from 32‚7% in 2008 to 36‚1% in 2011 and has remained between 35-37% every year. The rate also increased among adults but by a smaller margin.”

Stats SA said joblessness within family networks was a cause of concern.

In 2008‚ one in every four youth lived in households in which no one was employed (23‚5%). This percentage rose to a peak of 28‚3% in 2012 before declining to 27‚5% in 2015.

In 2015‚ among youth that were not economically active who lived in households in which no one was employed‚ the vast majority were students (55‚3%). “Their likelihood of being discouraged‚ homemakers or ill/disabled was higher than among youth living in households where at least one person was employed.”

At provincial level‚ the proportion of youth who live in households in which no one is employed is highest in Eastern Cape (43‚4% in 2015) and Limpopo (40‚2%) and lowest in Western Cape (13‚9%) and Gauteng (16‚7%).

Amongst population groups‚ black African youth who live in households in which no one is employed face the biggest challenge to their livelihoods. In 2015‚ as many as 30‚9% lived in such households‚ Stats SA said‚ compared to 14.4% in the coloured population and 6‚3% and 6‚5% in the Indian/Asian and white population respectively.

A larger proportion of male youth aged 15–19 years (35‚3% in 2015) than female youth of the same age (33‚3%) lived in households in which no one was employed. In the older age groups the situation is reversed and larger proportions of female youth live in such households.

The education level of employed youth has a direct influence on the types of jobs they are able to get. In 2015‚ one in every two black African (54‚0%) and coloured (53‚3%) youth aged 15-24 years who had jobs‚ had education levels below the secondary level (matric)‚ Stats SA said.

In contrast‚ the proportion of the Indian/Asian and white population groups with that education level was substantially smaller at 17.3% and 12.4% respectively.

“The disaggregation of youth into 5-year age cohorts reveals that in 2015‚ among youth who had jobs‚ one in every ten (12.8%) aged 15-19 years only had an education level of primary or lower‚” Stats SA said. The distribution of occupations by population group reflects the differences in the education profile of each group‚ it noted. “Whereas in 2015‚ only 13.1% of black African youth and 10‚5% of coloured youth had skilled occupations‚ one in every three (36.2%) of Indian/Asian youth and 53.4% of white youth had such occupations.”

Unemployed youth aged 25-34 who are actively looking for work are in a particularly precarious situation in the labour market. In 2015‚ as many as 57‚1% of such youth within the black African and 70.1% within the coloured population group only have education below the matric level. Smaller proportions of such youth in the Indian/Asian (40.7%) and white (26.0%) population groups have qualifications below the matric level.

The Trade industry is the major source of employment for youth‚ accounting for 23.3% of their employment in 2015‚ Stats SA found. “And reflecting the impact of the recession‚ the share of Trade in total employment declined by the largest amount over the period 2008-2015 (down by 3‚9 percentage points).”

Differences in the employment opportunities available to youth in the formal and informal sectors of the economy are large. Whereas in 2015 nine out of every ten (90‚9%) youth from the white population group and 86.4% from the Indian/Asian group had jobs in the formal sector‚ only 71.7% of youth from the coloured population group and 67.6% from the black African group had formal sector jobs.

In contrast‚ the informal sector provided a livelihood for one out of every five black African youth (19‚4% in 2015) but accounted for only 6-13% of jobs among youth in the other population groups.

Overall‚ one in every two unemployed young people had no work experience.

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