UN report reveals SA’s youth unemployment crisis

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A report by the United Nations (UN) has revealed that South Africa has an alarming challenge of youth unemployment in the SADC region, calling for policies that will help bridge this gap.

The UN Development Programme and the Human Sciences Research Council have launched the 2022 South Africa National Human Development Report.

The report examines youth unemployment from a human development perspective, emphasizing its impact on critical development and consequences.

It was received by Deputy President Paul Mashatile who concurred that more needs to be done.

The report shows that the country leads with a high number of unemployed young people with a rate of over 60% compared to 21% in Brazil and China and 16% in Russia.

Youth unemployment has been described as a critical development challenge in South Africa that needs targeted responses.

Labour market  

Statistics South Africa says looking at the population dynamics, youth unemployment remains a concern.

Stats SA’s Deputy Director, Nthabiseng Makhatha says, “The results of the quarterly labour force survey shows that the youth remain the most vulnerable in the labour market when compared to adults and the timeline period between 2013 to 2023.”

“The unemployment rate amongst the youth was higher than adults and increased by more than 10% points and young people are also hit hard by long term unemployment with the results showing us that of the 4,9 million youth who were unemployed in quarter 1 of 2023. More than 75% of them were in long term unemployment, they had been unemployed for a period of a year and longer,” Makhatha explains.

The report also looks at youth unemployment in South Africa through a human development lens. It indicates that in order to tackle the high and complex youth unemployment challenge, and to take advantage of the opportunities of the future of work, South Africa has to extensively invest in the 21st-century skills of its younger generation.

The Human Sciences Research CounciL (HSRC) believes there’s now data that should inform the country’s policies that should mitigate against the crisis.

HSRC CEO, Prof Sarah Mosoetsa says, “Unemployment employment the 21st century in South Africa requires targeted strategies that considered race, gender, geographic location and class. Equally important is the collection and analysis of data to measure human development which plays a crucial role in identifying disparities, formulating effective policies and fostering accountability in efforts to improve our human development, our youth requires that.”


The UN says it has been working on the report for two years and shared some of its findings and recommendations. It says it will now work with government and the NYDA on empowerment programmes for the youth and also tap into the national youth employment scheme.

UNDP South Africa Director, Dr Ayodele Odusola says, “SA’s education system has to be in line with requirement and demand of the 21st century on the school curriculum and the labour market. Second technology should be leveraged for the future of work, third we need to look into agriculture, tourism fourth addressing youth unemployment should take a concerted approach on policies and investing in public infrastructure and strong institutions. Finally the report acknowledged extended public works programmes and internships for young people.”

Create more jobs 

Deputy President Paul Mashatile has welcomed the report, calling on social partners and the private sector to help address the country’s economic challenges, to create more jobs for young people.

Mashatile says, “We welcome the report…government’s efforts to empower young people must be premised on a growing and inclusive economy which is why it’s crucial that the social partners all act in unison about re-industrialising and growing our economy.”

The report also called  for concerted efforts and evidence based interventions on policies that should form part of the future of the country.

Delegates including government in agreement that Youth employment, remains the best accelerator of economic growth and human development, and will help the country realise its 2030 National Development Plan Goals.

VIDEO: The 2022 South African National Human Development report released