Youth Economic Interventions

Saadia Moolla By Saadia Moolla

Our history has shown us that a united and committed youth can change the trajectory of a country. The youth of 1976 pulled together under excruciating circumstances to fight for freedom and many times paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that today we have good fortune of living in a democratic state.
Today the call goes out for young people of our nation to become agents of change in their social circles and communities to help us defeat the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality. 

Despite our nation’s best efforts, these challenges entrenched by apartheid have worsened following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the July 2021 unrest and the devastating floods around the country.

It has left millions of young people without employment, education or training and has become our country’s greatest challenge. Youth unemployment has reached alarming levels, which is concerning given that those in the 15-34 age bracket account for over half the country's employable population.

If we are to overcome this challenge, we need young people to rise up for themselves and become the change they desire. Unlike the generation of 1976, this time around young people have a government that cares and prioritises their needs and wants to see them succeed. 

Our holistic approach to turning around youth unemployment includes formal education and training, learnerships, internships and support for youth entrepreneurship through the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention. These development and empowerment initiatives are providing the necessary support for young people to take on their challenges and win.

Government has set up a number of initiatives to advance the participation of young people in the economy. It includes the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme, which has offered young people across the country dignity and hope. It has reached more than one million participants of which approximately 84 per cent were youth. 

While these initiatives help young people obtain valuable experience for the working world, they also serve as an expedient until the economy recovers and private sector begins to create more jobs at scale. 

To encourage the employment of more young people in the private sector government’s Employment Tax Incentive shares the cost of employing a young person with an employer. The incentive has been expanded to encourage businesses to hire more young people in large numbers.   

Our approach to youth employment now also includes social employment initiatives, which draws participants into employment that supports local needs. It includes community safety, food kitchens, urban agriculture, early childhood development, dealing with gender-based violence, and improving waste collection to create safe and beautiful public spaces.

These social employment initiatives run by community organisations across South Africa are supported by the Social Employment Fund. In creating work for the common good we not only provide young people with employment but also a sense of responsibility and ownership in contributing towards uplifting their communities. 

Government has responded to the need for skills development and youth employment by enabling unemployed graduates to gain experience through the Public Service Graduate Internship and Learnership Programme.

The National Youth Service has been revitalised to offer young people opportunities to undertake work that builds the community and provides them with skills, self-confidence and work experience. Over 47 000 participants were placed in the first phase of the National Youth Service. Applications for 20 000 placements in the second phase opened in November 2023.

We are committed to champion programmes and initiatives that limit the impact of unemployment on young people.  To date, over 4.8 million young people have registered on, a zero-rated online platform for young South Africans to access opportunities for learning and earning. 

As government rolls out these various programmes to draw young people into the economy, we need young people themselves to take up the challenge. Youth have the potential through united action to turn around the unemployment challenges and take their rightful place in our society. 

By Saadia Moolla is Director: Communication and Content Management