At the end of April, The Economist published an 8-page overview of the pre-election state of South Africa. 25 years after the end of apartheid and the ascension of Nelson Mandela to the presidency, the general picture of the country does not look bright.
Stagnation is manifested throughout the country, unpinned by corruption which provides undermines any institutional foundations for growth. Perhaps the hardest hit are the country’s youth, who in themselves make up a staggering proportion of the population. Nearly half of the entire country were born since the end of apartheid in 1994, forming a “born free” generation that has had to reconcile a previously disenfranchised electorate (their parents), while watching on as five ANC-led administrations fall short on promises.
The Economist’s cites a young graduate, Keneiloe Tutu who summarises this predicament succinctly: "I still wake up in a shack in Soweto with two unemployed parents." Tutu herself graduated from college a year ago (April 2018) and still hasn’t found work.
Unemployment is an unavoidable backdrop to South Africa’s problems. As a percentage of the world’s total Youth NEET* population, 3.2% reside in South Africa, even though the country accounts for 0.8% of the world’s population.
Barriers to entry continue to exacerbate this issue, with proximity to work being a major limitation, originally caused by forced displacement during Apartheid. The Economist points out that on average, black South Africans spend more than 100 minutes per day commuting to and from their place of walk. This average commuting time is excessive, four times greater than that of the average American worker. Location has a multiplying effect on those looking to find employment. According to a 2016 study, young unemployed people spend ZAR 650 ($38) per month searching for work.
Driving these remarkable stats towards single digit unemployment presents a massive task for the new administration. Land distribution remains a topic, though education and professional training present a more likely route to fuller employment. Seeking strategies for this presents a hurdle, especially in a country where four out of every five maths teachers cannot do the sums expect of their 13-year-old pupils. Only 6% of those who go into high school end up graduating from a higher education institution. A more realistic approach needs be taken argues Ann Bernstein of Centre for Development and Enterprise who points out: "We need policies for the labour force we have, not the highly skilled one we wished we had."
For more on the report, visit economist.com.
* Not in Employment, Education or Training