The Minister for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, Collins Chabane, says finding solutions to youth unemployment are important to South Africa.
Speaking at the opening of the Presidential Youth Indaba on Jobs and Skills on Friday, Minister Chabane said that South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world with about 3.6 million youth between the ages of 15 and 29 having no work.
"Finding solutions to youth unemployment is of utmost importance. If we want to increase the absorption and retention of young people into the economy, we need to prioritize pragmatic, demand focused and solutions driven interventions," said the minister.
He was delivering the opening remarks on behalf of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
There was a need for short, medium and long term solutions that focus on sustainable jobs, he said.
Structural constraints need to be addressed as there was a big pool of poorly educated black youth. The minister acknowledged that the majority of the youth is trapped in temporary, informal and casual work with limited prospects for advancement.
However, several initiatives had proven to be a success such as that of the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator which is beginning to receive attention as one of the country's most effective youth employment facilitators.
Harambee was formed in 2010 to find young people, who are disadvantaged, but employable to find jobs because they don't have the money, skills or social know-how. It has placed over 1000 candidates in full-time jobs.
The South African economy was divided into two with the first economy being a modern vehicle providing decent work and the second economy comprising of vulnerable work.
"The second economy is characterised by glaring forms of decent work deficits, which give rise to livelihood risks and vulnerability. This fact has prompted government to affirm the place of transformative social protection in responding to structural poverty and unemployment," Minister Chabane said.
Decent work and productive employment has been placed at the central stage by government.
"South Africa must and will accelerate its efforts to put 'youth unemployment' at the centre stage of policy and programmes," said the minister.
He noted that the indaba -- which will conclude on Monday -- comes at a crucial time in the country's development.
The indaba came at a time when the country has just about recovered from the financial meltdown and at a time when debate on decent work among others is intensifying, noted Minister Chabane.
Government recognised that the majority of unemployment youth are low skilled who are mostly women and youth in rural areas.
Of South Africa's population, 12.1% now hold a postgraduate qualification, up from 7.1% in 1996. Those, who have completed at least secondary school, as a percentage of the population have increased from 23.4% in 1996 to 40.5% in 2011.
President Jacob Zuma is expected to address the youth that have converged at the indaba on Sunday morning.
The indaba provides a platform for young people to empower themselves. It will also have an expo component to help connect youth to job opportunities, career information, scholarships, bursary programmes and enterprise development support.
The opening of the indaba, held at the Birchwood Conference Centre, was attended by Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Deputy Minister Obed Bapela, Department of Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor and Cosatu President Sidumo Dlamini, among others.