SA youth facing a crisis

SA youth facing a crisis

The youth in South Africa is facing a socio-economic crisis and if not addressed, could lead to a very difficult future for the country. 

Pali Lehohla_gallo
File photo: Gallo Images

Statistics South Africa today released the first Vulnerable Groups Report on youth, which suggests amid a lowering fertility rate and higher unemployment, the inequality gap among South Africans is far from closing.

Statistician General Pali Lehohla painted a bleak picture for tomorrow's leaders, especially in the black and coloured communities. "They are unemployed. They are involved in crime. They are hungry. They are not educated," he said. 

He explained there is a direct link between education and unemployment.

Unemployment increased by 1,7% for South Africans aged 15 - 34 in the five years leading up to 2014. While unemployment rates are low among the white and Indian population, black and coloured South Africans make up the bulk of those without a job.

While the majority of the white and Indian youth population complete university, the potion of black and coloured South Africans, which make up the majority of those aged between 15 and 34, is lower, and is in fact declining.

This is in turn reflected in the unemployment figures. Almost 30% of black South Africans (15-64) do not have jobs while just over seven per cent of white South Africans are unemployed. 

Compared to the rest of the country, the youth make up two thirds of the 5 million unemployed South Africans.

Lehohla said a demographic dividend - that is economic growth due to an increase in working individuals and a decrease in dependents - is impossible for the black and coloured communities. 

"And if 80% of the population is black and you don't have a demographic dividend, then it means the future becomes very-very bleak," he said.

The research further found "that young people constitute the majority of both victims of crime and perpetrators." 

Young South Africans were more likely to commit assault, robbery and property theft. Those aged between 16 and 34 were also twice as likely to be victims of assault and robbery as adults. 

The youth mortality rate however dropped by close to five per cent, but so too did fertility rates.

South Africa's youth population grew by almost one per cent slower than the rest of the population. 

Lehohla said this is because women now give birth to an average of 2.5 children. He said at 2.1 children per woman the population is effectively replacing itself, with a zero per cent growth.

"If you are so close to replacement and your youth population is decreasing as a proportion (compared to the wider population) as a consequence of that decline in fertility, and it is an unemployed youth: a combination of that is a cocktail of disaster," said Lehohla.

This could lead to a difficult future for the country - one with slower economic growth, poverty and higher unemployment and crime rates.

Edited by Marius van der Walt

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