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Lack of tech tools perpetuates SA’s high youth unemployment

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 25 Jun 2021

A cohesive national digital transformation policy that unifies public and private players behind a singular objective of promoting digital enablement in education and entrepreneurship will be an essential tool to improve youth developmental outcomes in SA over the next decade.

This is one of the key findings of the latest IQbusiness Youth Progress Index (YPI), developed by the consulting firm in conjunction with global non-profit Social Progress Imperative.

The report identifies the main factors which perpetuate SA’s extremely high youth unemployment rate – concluding that the youth of SA have limited access to opportunities.

The YPI considers various socio-economic factors affecting SA’s youth, including basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing and opportunity.

This as the latest Stats SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey shows 74.7% of youth (aged 15-24) in SA are unemployed.

Although there are several interventions that may be deployed to ameliorate the economic and social plight of youth in SA, the report found that none have greater potential to effect change than access to modern technological tools and connectivity.

“Technology adoption can enhance earning potential by exposing youth to a wide virtual market where they can leverage their skills for employment or trade assets,” notes the report.

“From a macro-economic perspective, according to the World Economic Forum, new technology adoption drives business growth, new job creation and augmentation of existing jobs, provided it can fully leverage the talents of a motivated and agile workforce who are equipped with future-proof skills to take advantage of new opportunities through continuous re-training and upskilling.”

The report provides a sub-national scoring of youth’s socio-economic circumstances and access to opportunities across provinces.

Out of 100 points, at the top of the rankings, the Western Cape (65.44) and Gauteng (60.51) stand apart from the rest of SA on youth progress scores, with Mpumalanga (53.15) not far behind.

These figures indicate both Western Cape and Gauteng have relatively better success in their quest to provide their youth with access to basic knowledge, information and healthcare, while providing a satisfying environment for youth to live in.

Opportunity scores rank particularly low for youth in the Eastern Cape (32.43) and North West (30.09), indicating South African youth are unsatisfied with the degree of personal rights, freedom and choice available to them in both of these provinces. These scores also outline poor access to advanced education and technological tools in both regions.

Adam Craker, CEO of IQbusiness, believes a good place to start to address these issues would be to embrace and adopt technology to enhance earning potential by exposing our youth to e-commerce platforms and empowering them with digital skills.

“But, the successful deployment of technological tools depends almost exclusively on adequate Internet access. Alarmingly, as Stats SA has found, on average only 9.3% of households have internet access in SA across metropolitan, urban and rural homes in all nine provinces. This can and must change in order for our youth to start competitively and meaningfully participating in the global digital economy,” explains Craker.