The Experience Advantage: How Internships and Training Can Combat Youth Unemployment

As of the first quarter of 2024, the youth unemployment rate for people (aged 15-34) in South Africa stands at a staggering 45.5%.

This is alarmingly higher than the national average of 32.9%, it’s a serious crisis that needs urgent attention.

Some reports highlight young individuals with some work experience are significantly more likely to secure employment than their inexperienced peers, underscoring the critical importance of initiatives such as internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training.

In this article, we’re going to try and delve into the multifaceted approach needed to tackle youth unemployment, emphasizing the role of education, gender disparities, regional variations, and the need for collaborative efforts to create a supportive environment for youth employment.

Let’s dive right in.

The Experience Advantage

The data reveals a striking disparity in job acquisition between experienced and inexperienced youth, with the former outperforming the latter by a ratio of 4 to 1.

This underscores the critical importance of initiatives like internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training in tackling youth unemployment.

In 2022, the youth transition rate into employment was 4.7%, up from 3.5% in 2021. In contrast, the adult transition rate remained static at 6.7%. Education also plays a pivotal role in employment prospects.

Youth with tertiary education have a significantly higher chance of moving from unemployment or inactivity to employment than those without matric.

Education and Gender Disparities

The Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for Q1 2024 highlights that only 9.8% of employed youth were graduates, illustrating the pressing need for improved educational access and attainment.

Social and economic barriers exacerbate youth unemployment and the high rates of youth not in employment, education, or training (NEET).

Young women face more significant challenges in securing employment compared to their male peers. In 2024, the unemployment rate for young females was 49.4%, up from 46.1% in 2004.

The labour market shows a clear gender disparity, with young men having an absorption rate of 31.9% versus 24.2% for young women.

Regional Variations and Discouragement

South Africa’s provinces exhibit varied labour market conditions. Urban areas generally offer better employment opportunities than rural regions.

For instance, the Western Cape has higher absorption rates and lower unemployment levels compared to provinces like KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Discouraged job seekers, who have given up on job hunting, present another dimension of the issue. In 2024, 2.8% of young individuals in the Western Cape were discouraged, compared to 13.9% in Limpopo.

Over the past two decades, most provinces saw a decline in discouraged youth, with the Northern Cape showing the largest decrease.

However, the North West and KwaZulu-Natal experienced increases in discouraged youth over the same period.

A Multifaceted Approach

Addressing youth unemployment requires a multifaceted strategy. Enhancing education, fostering skills development, and implementing targeted employment programs are crucial.

Collaboration between government, private sector, and civil society is essential to create a supportive environment for youth employment.

Promoting entrepreneurship and small business development can empower young people to create their own opportunities.

Combating youth unemployment not only spurs economic growth but also fosters social cohesion and reduces inequality, paving the way for a more inclusive and prosperous South Africa.