There should be continued investment in programmes that help job seeking youth increase their skills, equip them to search for jobs and match them to potential employers, a study found.
The Sikhaya Youth Assets Study, released on Wednesday by researchers of the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg, sought to understand how to address youth unemployment in SA.
The country's unemployment rate is at a 15-year high of 27.6%. The youth account for more than half (52%) of the total unemployment figure.
Researchers interviewed 1 996 young people (those aged between 18 to 35) four times over a period of three years to come to the findings of the study.
Among the striking findings is that youth unemployment programmes are useful in equipping job seekers in their search for work, and financial capability interventions appear to have a promising impact which requires further investigation.
The study showed that youth employment programmes are critical for promoting human capability skills, easing access to information about the labour market and creating an interface between potential employers and young people.
Additionally, they can reduce gaps created by the challenges of low education levels and geographic locations. "They play a role in supporting unemployed youth to remain oriented to the labour market and persist with work seeking," the report read.
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The study recognised that in a low growth economic environment, few jobs are created. This exacerbates existing barriers to employment. Particularly young people from privileged backgrounds and have access to good quality education transition "relatively smoothly" from higher education to their first full-time jobs, according to the study.
"But for the majority of young people in South Africa, who come from poorer socio-economic households, and who have attended schools that provide them with a less than ideal education base, the pathway into and through the labour market is far more difficult to navigate," the report read. For this reason youth employment programmes are needed to bridge the gap, the study suggested. "Youth employability programmes will therefore remain important in supporting such youth to access the benefits of a growing economy," the report read.
Programmes particularly need to work with employers and find areas of job growth, so that youth can be trained to meet job requirements. The programmes are also needed to keep the unemployed active in their search for work.
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The study showed that along with a combination of other factors, those who participated in programs improved their employment rates as well as average earnings. "Young people who participate in such programmes already show high levels of self-efficacy and future orientation, which perhaps explains them applying for the programmes and places them in a better position in the labour market than those who do not apply," the report read.
Apart from participating in youth employment programmes, the study also indicated that demographic factors such as geographic location also influenced youth's employability.