SA: A South African Case Study – How to Support Young Job Hunters


By Lauren Graham, University of Johannesburg and Leila Patel
Young South Africans spend on average R938 (US$85) a month looking for work. This astronomical cost includes transport at R558 ($41) and an additional R380 ($28) for internet access, printing, application fees, agent’s fees and even money for bribes.

The picture is even more alarming when you consider the unemployment statistics. Over the last decade unemployment in South Africa has increased from 21.5% to 27.2%.

But perhaps most concerning is that it’s especially high for South Africa’s almost 10 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24. For this group unemployment sits at 50%. Not only do young people struggle to find work but the process of getting a job in South Africa is expensive.

The data on the cost of looking for work has been collected by the Siyakha Youth Assets for Employability Study. The ongoing study launched in 2013 to assess whether government programmes designed to help young people is actually making a difference in their efforts to find work.

The programmes offer some form of skills training – usually a combination of technical and general workplace skills, along with some advice and support on finding work. The study is looking at whether youth employability programmes – improve employment for youth and what elements help them in their job search.

The study participants were predominantly African, women and from poor backgrounds. The average age of the participants when they completed their training was 23.5 years. Three-quarters of the sample were between 18 and 25 years of age. This demographic is the most affected by unemployment.

The reasons most often given for youth unemployment are limited skills, lack of work experience, and high wage expectations. But our findings show that over half of the sample had prior work experience and did not report unrealistic wage expectations, suggesting there were other factors keeping young people locked out of the labour market.

We conclude that one reason contributing to the continued inability of young people to break into the jobs market is the cost of seeking a job.

The survey

The survey has involved a sample of 1 986 young people who participated in eight of these programmes at 48 training sites across the country. The vast majority of the participants were young – with an average age of 23 – black (94,4%) and unemployed (78%).

A key reason that those surveyed gave for not looking for work is the cost of doing so.

The reason for this is that apartheid era spatial planning, in which townships were established far away from economic hubs, continues to affect the ability of people to look for work in a cost effective way.

Two-thirds of the participants in the study live in townships often located on the periphery of urban areas. This means they have to travel long distances to the urban economic hubs to access job opportunities.

The remaining third were based in far flung rural areas, meaning they needed to travel even further than their urban counterparts in search of jobs.

In addition to the burden of travel costs, the study found that over half (51%) of young people live in households that are classified as severely food insecure. This meant that they, or another member of the household, had gone without food to eat more than once in the 30 days that preceded the baseline study.

This means that households had to make difficult decisions between funding the costs of seeking work and affording basic necessities.

The findings

Our research found that close to two-thirds (61.6%) of participants relied on family members to fund their costs of searching for work, which puts a huge strain on their personal relationships and often made these young people feel like a burden.

Blessing, a young mom of two with a diploma in tourism management said:

[I experience] financial challenges in the case of going to drop my CV, so I have been asking my mum and even my husband, to drop my CV on my behalf on their way to work to save on costs.

Nevertheless, 15% of youth in the study showed real initiative and commitment to finding work. They funded the costs from their own savings. A smaller number (6.2%) reported using the stipends they received from the various programmes helping youths find employment.

The study found that 87.2% of those interviewed used the internet to look for work, but there was still a reliance on newspaper adverts, which often required applicants to submit physical applications.

The research found that 83% of young people spent money on printing their CVs, and that one of their biggest expenses was for mobile data. The youth employment programmes helped in alleviating some of the financial costs.

Support for work seekers is crucial, especially if South Africa is going to address the needs of the millions of young people that remain unemployed. Failure to provide this support means that young people’s potential will not be realised and significant human capital will be lost to society.

Leilanie Williams, a researcher at the University of Johannesburg, contributed to the research and this article.

Source The Conversation


Life After School: The Nigerian Perspective

By Edikan Udoibuot

What are your plans after school? Almost every finalist has been asked this question in one way or the other. But unfortunately, only a few have a concrete answer to such questions. The transition from being an undergraduate to becoming a graduate is kinder funny and scary to most students. The thought of being independent, no more frequent pocket money from Daddy and Mummy, Uncles and Aunts, Brothers and Sisters… is something we all have to deal with. It is a period when every decision you make counts and are very vital to your future because everybody now looks up to you.

After spending four, five to six years in school studying one course or the other, the question is what did you gain? What did you achieve? To some, those years were years of reformation, to others, they were years of purpose discovery, while some see the years as wasted years borne out of frustration or disappointments, no thanks to the education system of the country. Particularly in Nigeria and Africa at large, we have poor orientation of career choice, most students choose courses either because of the name or because they were forced by parents to study such courses (living another man’s dream). Also, some study because they want to work in big firms. For instance, back in our secondary school days, the three major courses most recurring among the science student were “medicine, engineering and pharmacy” while those in the commercial and arts are more concerned with “law, mass communication and accountancy”. These are nice courses per se but there are many other great courses to study which students don’t know about or neglect thinking that such courses won’t be of relevance to them.

Back to our question “what next after graduation?” the truth is that many students don’t have plans for life after school because they were either carried away by activities of their studies or didn’t just bother to plan ahead thinking that every plans made initially will fall in place. Most students’ mindset is to graduate, go for NYSC, get a good and safe job and life a happy life, but there is more to life. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a country where the economy is dwindling; there is no job security, and many other challenging things happening in the country. To survive in an economy like Nigeria’s, one has to be independent, not waiting or depending on the government to feed you, it is only one without skill that cries out “no job”. To this effect, some questions pops up, what skills do you have? What’s your passion? What do you have to offer? If you have concrete answers to these questions, then you are good to go.

John F. Kennedy the 35th President of the United States of America once said, “ask not of what your country can do for you ask of what you can do for your country”. After graduation it would be time to give out what you’ve learned so far. Think of something to do; be different, be innovative, be creative, be industrious, and be versatile, surely you will be able to sail through the stormy sea outside school.

Perhaps you never had concrete plans while in school, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) should be seen as a blessing in disguise because it should be a period where you can sit down and plan your life for the future within a year. It fully transits you from life as a student to life as a graduate. The government on their part should help matters by making the environment conducive while it is our duty to create opportunities. But if the government is doing nothing about it, that shouldn’t warrant us to sit idle and keep blaming the government.

God created every man in a unique way, lying inside of you are great potentials yet to be unleashed which by discipline, doggedness, and determination you can make a difference. We should bear in mind that the era of civil service is over. Before as a civil servant, you are entitled to a car and house but that is not the case in our own generation. That is why one has to be versatile. If you were not able to learn one or two skills aside your chosen discipline, there is still an opportunity to do so during the one year of NYSC. In our generation three things will push you to the top, they are your talents, your skills and your discipline.

Always remember, your network apparently determines your net-worth. You can study medicine in the university and become a stylist later in life; that doesn’t mean you wasted your time in school. Rather, your being educated exposed you to many things and also changed your way of thinking. Your packaging will be totally different from the normal stylist because you’ll think in a more modified way.

Finally, you were born to win, to dominate and to explore nature. Key into nature and life will be easy for you. Remember education is the key! It is not just about the certificate; there is more to it.

Take a bold step!

Make a wise decision and stand out of the crowd!!

God bless your efforts.

This article was first published at