Cape Town: A multi-pronged approach, rather than one single measure, is needed to tackle youth unemployment, the Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel said on Thursday, during a noisy and lively debate in Parliament on the youth wage subsidy.
Addressing the National Assembly, Patel said government was working on a multi-pronged approach to youth unemployment, which he added was a rising global problem.
“We need to forge a consensus approach to youth unemployment, instead of a kragdadige approach to push through a single measure in the face of opposition from youth organisations and unions,” he said.
He said a work compact on youth unemployment had been agreed on by members of Business Leadership SA, Business Unity SA (Busa), the Black Business Council, representatives of women, disabled peoples’ organisations and youth representatives drawn from unions and SA Youth Council.
Corporate supporters and principles had been identified – including current and potential private-sector programmes such as work readiness schemes, the setting up of health, education and rural brigades, as well as internships and apprenticeships.
A youth employment creation committee under Nedlac is considering various measures to tackle joblessness among youth people.
Government is exploring work-seeker and work-creation subsidies with key partners and it is setting up specific programmes to help young people to start their own business or co-operative – including a role in installing solar-water heaters.
In the area of education, government is accelerating work on its second-chance matric and expanding the intake of further education and training (FET) colleges tenfold to four million by 2030.
Patel said the Western Cape, which has been implementing a version of a youth wage subsidy for some months, has seen an increase of 41 000 unemployed youth over the last 12 months.
In contrast to this in the same period, youth unemployment dropped by 100 000 persons, it fell by 34 000 in the Eastern Cape and by 28 000 in the KwaZulu-Natal.
“Honourable members, we cannot address joblessness on the scale left by apartheid with tax incentives alone, but they can play an important role.
“Nor can we help young people through measures that displace older workers. That approach would deepen social divisions and poverty, it has also faced the youth of the Western Cape…” he said.
However, the Leader of the Opposition Lindiwe Mazibuko said the job-seekers subsidy in place of a youth-wage subsidy, would keep unemployed youth trapped in poverty.
Mazibuko said the number of unemployed youth stood at 3.2 million people and counting.
She said the proposal by President Jacob Zuma to grant bargaining councils the right to regulate the youth wage subsidy, would frustrate the roll out of the policy, as would a proposal to limit beneficiaries to – one beneficiary for every five existing workers.