Deputy Minister Buti Manamela: Accelerating Inclusive Youth Employment Conference

Opening remarks by Deputy Minister Buti Manamela at the Accelerating Inclusive Youth Employment Conference, Spier Wine Estate, Western Cape

Programme Director,

Executive Director of MISTRA – Mr Joel Netshitenzhe,

Executive Director of Yellowwoods, Ms Nicola Galombik,

CEO of Harambee Ms Matyana Iskander,

NPC Commissioner, Ms Tessa Dooms,

Distinguished guests.

It gives me great pleasure to participate in this opening session of this Accelerating Inclusive Youth Employment Conference. This conference is timely because youth employment is rampant within our society. It cuts across a range of frontiers that include economic participation; social cohesion; bridging inequality and securing the next generation.

According to the International Labour Organisation, over 73 million young people are actively seeking employment and a further 156 million young workers are living in poverty. This is concerning, and youth targeted interventions are needed to enable young people to actively participate in our broader society and more specifically in our economy.

What has become increasingly clear is that young people are finding it difficult to operate in an environment that is systematically marginalising them. This phenomena has resulted in an increased number of young people finding it challenging to join the world of work. These frightening statistics from the ILO suggests that young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. As a nation our youth are not immune to this global trend.

According to StatsSA, the labour absorption rate for adults aged between 35 and 64 is almost double that of young people. More alarmingly is the rate at which young women are unemployed in the country.

The trends across the country also inform us that those with tertiary qualifications have a greater chance of finding employment.

Science and technology has the power to transform lives. It creates opportunity, effects change, and connects our society. We can all agree that the current cohort of young people is by far the most technologically skilled and integrated. It is this generation that built platforms that have connected billions of people across the world. We have seen young South African graduates, armed with Electronics qualifications from our quality TVET colleges develop smartphones and tablets that rival those being manufactured by larger multi-nationals.

Young people have the ability to imagine a world that is fundamentally different from the present. This opens us up to a new era of opportunity and insight. This generation is often referred to as “digital natives”. They are agile, they are mobile, and they are fluent in various technologies.

This conference should further interrogate the bridging of the skills divide as it currently exists. We are well aware of the areas in technology in which growth has accelerated, and part of our work here is to consider mechanisms and plans that will retain and skill the millions in our country who may not be prepared for the 4th Industrial Wave. If we do not take our people on the journey of being globally competitive, then our plans and policies are not responding to the needs of the future. Our survival over the next 30 years will be largely determined by the way we respond to our challenges, with your help.

If we are able to adapt our policies, programmes and initiatives as a country, we will be able to respond to disruptive changes as they occur. Are we prepared for the changing nature of the labour market? Or will we be passengers in this ever evolving technological revolution?

Government is doing a lot to address youth unemployment. From internships in the public sector to grants to stimulate youth entrepreneurship to financing for youth owned enterprises through to public employment programmes that target youth. But clearly more needs to be done. We have diagnosed the problem, and while more targeted research may be help, we need action more than anything else.

We need acceleration of initiatives. It cannot be business as usual. We need inclusive initiatives. It is easy to cream of the top and show impact when we are targeting easy to reach youth. But what about the most vulnerable. Those that have various layers of marginalisation. Who will act for and with them?

We need innovative solutions. This generation is digital. This generation has introduced the country to its 12 official language – the language of technology. So our solutions for youth employment has to be innovative and evidence based with degrees of risk taking.

The combination of innovation, evidence based and risk taking are essential if we are to focus on large scale solutions that address the multitudes of youth that desperately need these interventions.

It is for this reason that the DPME is a partner to this conference. With some of the best and brightest from a wide-range of sectors at this conference, we are convinced that your discussions and deliberations will lead to actions that can make a real and tangible difference for youth employment.

I would like to thank MISTRA and Yellowwoods for partnering towards this conference and this broader initiative of acceleration youth employment.

Source: Government of South Africa