1 March 2014

South Africa: Youth Accord Making Progress - Minister Patel

Progress has been made in the last nine months since the signing of the Youth Accord in April 2013, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said on Friday.

"The employment of young people has accelerated. There are now just over 6.1 million youth who are employed. Since the signing, youth employment [people under 35] rose by 420 000, the biggest rise in youth employment in a long, long time," said Minister Patel.

In the previous 18 months before the Accord, youth employment rose by 115 000 people.

The minister was giving an overview of progress made since the Accord was signed on 18 April 2013. The Youth Employment Accord was signed and committed to by civil society, government, labour, business and the youth movement.

The Accord makes several commitments to improve education and skilling of young people, and helping them to find jobs and start their businesses. In it, government also commits to increase the number of people employed in the public sector, while certain industries are to set youth development targets.

Most of the jobs were in the provinces of Gauteng (with the most number of jobs), the Western Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, said Minister Patel.

"Forty five percent of the jobs went to workers who had finished matric and 18% to university graduates. What it shows us is that increasingly the economy is absorbing people with skills," noted the minister.

The Accord was centred around six commitments which include education and training as well as work exposure.

The jobs were in the construction sector, trade and community services (mainly government), among others.

Minister Patel noted that not enough young women were being employed. "We are not absorbing enough young women into employment. Women should get at least half of the new jobs."

He however, noted that youth unemployment remained at high levels with 3.2 million actively looking for work.

Executive chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Yershen Pillay, said that the country has made strides for youth employment since 1994.

"Alot of progress has been made but we need to do more," he said at a panel discussion, following the opening of the Presidential Youth Indaba on Jobs and Skills.

A multi-pronged approach to address youth unemployment was necessary. Minister Patel agreed with Pillay, adding that the Accord was not a government accord but that it requires all stakeholders to roll up their sleeves and work together.

Jacko Maree, vice President of Business Unity South Africa (Busa), said with the advancement of technology, opportunities for the youth were more.

"They [business] want to attract talented young people. There is a desire to employ young people," he said.

The South African Youth Council (SAYC) expressed its readiness to be part of the solution to youth unemployment.

"We are ready to be part of the solution. The Accord is a perfect framework to the solution of unemployment," said the SAYC's Thamsanqa Maqubela.

The indaba concludes on Monday with President Jacob Zuma due to address delegates on Sunday.

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