As we celebrate another day dedicated to youth, we look at how much support has been given to ensure that young people truly contribute to a better and more sustainable future. According to Stats SA, youth in South Africa continue to be disadvantaged in the labour market, irrespective of education levels, with an unemployment rate far higher than the national average. For the first quarter of 2023, the unemployment rate was 6,3% for those aged 15-24 and 5,2% for those aged 24-34, which is higher than the national rate of 4,9%. The lowest underemployment rate is recorded in the age groups 35-44 years and 55-64 years, both at 4,6%. Looking at the current state, intervention is needed from communities, government, corporations and institutions across the board to ensure that young people thrive and reach their best potential.
The youth of today should stand by the examples of fallen soldiers who had few materials, but great willpower and passion. While our fight for economic freedom and education differs from the fight of our predecessors, we must remain committed to the vision. We must pave the way for those behind us to fight a different battle to ours, in a free and fair democracy. Giving back agency to young people can only be seen in their active participation and contributions to the socio-economy.
I had the opportunity to sit down with OCOF HHCSA’s Our Voices Matter (OVM) youth from various safeparks and CYCC’s and here is what they had to say.
“Youth Day signifies a lot of struggles, however after so many years nothing has changed for young people in this country, at the current moment, young people still feel excluded from everything.” Many felt that young people are still struggling and do not have opportunities to better their future. Youth employment remains a challenge in South Africa, with limited job opportunities and high unemployment rates. Another young person stated “Unemployment is a huge challenge faced by young people, it contributes to the increase of crime in this country. Young people are not working so they resort to crime to close their poverty gap. Racial discrimination is also another challenge, a lot of young people are still not able to access certain spaces and opportunities due to their racial background.”
Nurturing the youth’s future is not only necessary but paramount. More needs to be done to empower young people at the grassroots level. Awareness alone cannot inspire change in the current economy, youth need platforms to deliberate with and participate in their own development. “Small businesses can play a role by employing young people and supporting them through community initiatives to help give them a head start. The government needs to invest in entrepreneurial programmes and teach young people how to start and manage their own businesses.”
Despite the challenges they face, young people continue to show resilience and strive for a better future. They have never stopped working towards a better future, even during dark times. “If I could see young people become successful and led by example, that can inspire us to do and be more. We wish to be supported and given a platform to show our potential.” On this Youth Month let us remember that Youth Day is the culmination of a vision and a dream fought for by thousands of South African youths. It is a day that celebrates youth, power, and unity. It also celebrates the potential each young person possesses to change the world if we put our minds to it.