Unemployment is not just a statistic: It is up to us to be the change!

Depending on the stats du jour, South Africa’s youth unemployment rate is in the vicinity of 70%. In numbers, this translates to approximately 7 million people. We are so accustomed to the country’s dismal unemployment rate, that we have become emotionally numb pertaining to the fallout of this gigantic tragedy.

In developed countries, similar statistics will cause a huge national outcry. In South Africa, the word “unemployment” habitually gets thrown around by politicians on public platforms and is usually accompanied by empty promises. Even when the State President announced grandiose projects and schemes to curb unemployment by creating “1 000 000 jobs in two years”, very little got done in practice.

We need to realise what life is really like for an unemployed person. In financial terms, a prolonged period of unemployment will produce a backlog that they will never be able to clear. Long periods of disengagement after school and from the job market leave long-term psychological scars on young people, including a prevalence for depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse and violence, including gender-based violence. 

The youth in rural areas are at an even greater financial disadvantage, with little access to information about available employment and little or no work experience, resulting in young people being stuck in the cycle of poverty and unemployment.

How do we affect the change?

The grim reality is that, unless we, as employers, do something about this, our high unemployment statistics will not change. Unemployment is the symptom of poor socio-economic policies, which affects every aspect of society, and there is no indication that the current Government intends to change its course.

A solution, that NEASA and its strategic partners offer, and in which all businesses can participate, is to empower the unemployed youth with basic entrepreneurial training, giving them access to the knowledge and skills required to become business owners in their own right.

As a business owner, you hold the key. You can use tax rebates, available from SARS, to train the unemployed youth and enable them to take their future into their own hands.

To participate in this initiative, please click here.