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Allowances for the unemployed youth?

By Staff Writer
Unemployment has always been a problem in South Africa and the government is currently exploring ways to tackle this "stubborn" problem affecting the youth.

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel was speaking at a youth jobs summit which was organised by the Young Communist League in Johannesburg and he revealed one of the government's options could be to roll out a voluntary scheme where young unemployed people will be given an allowance from the state.

Patel said that the idea emerged from discussions with National Youth Development Agency as part of efforts to get enough young people engaged in the real economy.


Patel however insisted that this is still just an idea but believes that if it should materialise it could present a way out of the deadlock which could emerge from the rejection of the state's proposed wage subsidy at firms as a means to encourage businesses to hire inexperienced workers.

"Participants will join the scheme for 12 months. It would have three components: acquiring skills, service to the community, and internships within industry so as to expose job seekers to direct experience in the world of work," Patel said.

Patel was mum on details and said that it would be premature to reveal too much since the proposal still needs to be canvassed among everyone affected.
When Patel was asked where this proposal could be used as compromise to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's idea to provide employers with a wage subsidy as an incentive to employ inexperienced young people, he was upbeat.

"There is no single silver bullet to address the pressing issue of youth unemployment. What we need are a range of tools to shift young people out of the psychology of hopelessness. In Cabinet we are focused on outcomes," Patel said.

Gordhan's wage-subsidy initiative has been rejected by trade unions and the youth leagues of the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) - the proposed volunteer scheme could provide a sort of middle ground.

Patel added that the government will reintroduce apprenticeships at state-owned enterprises after, a policy which was put to bed by former president Thabo Mbeki. This is a decision that is likely to go down well with unions who have long bemoaned the decision claiming that getting rid of the policy economy of skilled artisans and resulted in the state having to import these scarce skills from elsewhere.

The picture of unemployment in South Africa is a bleak one. Patel said that as many as one in three South Africans who are able or willing to work cannot find a job while three out of four young people have no jobs. Many have no experience of working life at all.

With statistics like this, one can only hope that a middle ground is reached in order to help empower the youth of South Africa and grow the country into the economic powerhouse it could be.

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