South Africa: University Graduates Are the New Cheap Labour - Underemployed, Underpaid and Underused


University graduates in South Africa are increasingly finding themselves in dead-end internships that promise to equip them with skills to make them more attractive in the labour market. Instead, they are reduced to making coffee, preparing meeting rooms, printing copies and other responsibilities that have nothing to do with harnessing their skills.

Graduate underemployment is not new, nor will it contract any time soon. In fact, it is bound to worsen as the economy declines, and with it, employment. With many people chasing few available jobs, graduates do not have the liberty to reject offers despite long-run dissatisfaction due to being underpaid and underused. Graduate underemployment is not an easy variable on which to collect data.

Underemployment is an economic term describing a condition in which people in the labour force are employed at less than full-time or regular jobs or at jobs inadequate with respect to their training, studies or economic needs. It is divided into three common categories: skilled workers in low-income jobs; skilled workers in jobs that do not fully use their skills; and part-time workers who would rather work full time.

The popular narrative commonly used by universities in an attempt to competitively market, position and...

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