Young women look to tip SA’s jobs scale

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 30 Aug 2023
More than 4.1 million local young people access the SA Youth platform.
More than 4.1 million local young people access the SA Youth platform.

More young people, particularly young women, are using government’s SA Youth national online platform, to access earning opportunities.

This is according to LeratoShayi, director in the project management office responsible for theimplementation of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (PYEI).

Shayi was speaking during the release of the PYEI’s first quarter statistics. The programme is a collaborative effort between the state and its network partners.

Initiated in 2020, the PYEI aims to help transition more young people from learning to earning opportunities. A central component of the PYEI is the establishment of a National Pathway Management Network (NPMN) that guides young people towards the earning opportunities.

The NPMN is enabled by the SA Youth platform, which can be accessed free of charge online or over the phone. It can also be accessed at Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) and National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) centres around the country.

Shayi revealed the first quarter saw just over 47 000 young people newly register on SA Youth, adding to the total of 4.1 million that had already accessed the platform.

“In the first quarter of 2023/24, we had 135 000-odd opportunities that were accessed by young people through the National Pathway Management Network; 72% of these were accessed by young women.

“Under workplace experience, which is part of our demand-led skilling opportunities, we had just over 12 000 opportunities that were accessed by youth through both the privatesector-led Youth Employment Service (YES) and the Department of Higher Education and Training, specifically looking at the TVET colleges.

“We also provided opportunities to young people to get support, on an enterprise financial support level, as well as non-financial enterprise support.”

Employment barriers

South Africa’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the world, sitting at 32.9%, as at the first quarter of 2023. Youth aged between 15 and 24 account for the majority of unemployed people in the country.

Statistics South Africa’s labour force survey shows there is also an increase in time-related underemployment. These are those persons who worked less than 35 hours in the reference week and were available to work additional hours.

It notes the underemployment rate increased for females and males, but females were more likely to be in time-related underemployment (6.3%) than their male counterparts (3.9%). Females may desire to work more hours; however, various reasons may force them to work fewer hours than they desire, says Statistics South Africa.

According to Shayi, the SA Youth platform shows young women continue to face specific barriers, even as progress is being made.

“What has been a big shift in our labour market is that more young women are actually getting educated than young men. They are educated and tenacious, but they still face substantial barriers once they enter into the labour market, with many of them being far less employed and earning far less than what men earn in the same jobs.

“We also know there is now high growth in what is called gig work, with tech-enabled jobs starting to unlock some barriers. What we are finding is that while there is flexibility, not all of it is yet translating in meaningful ways for young women.”

However, Shayi indicated there are intentional designs in the employment-led programmes to tackle the barriers that persistently affect young women, especially in male-dominated sectors.

“Women take up these opportunities and they run with them, and create new pathways for themselves.

“To tip the scale towards more equity, we need a systemic shift. It’s not about jobs for girls, but employment systems that actually work for women.”

In the case of the YES, which is a private sector-led initiative, Shayi indicated it supports over 58% of young women.

“Since its inception, they’ve managed to generate the demand and access to opportunities they want to see in the private sector, with 42% of their alumni employed in permanent or contract roles.

“YES has really startedto shift the trajectory and create pathways to earning for young women.”

Deputy minister in the Presidency Kenny Morolong noted young people have been supported to access just over one million earning opportunities since the inception of the PYEI.

This is inclusive of opportunities delivered through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, the National Youth Service and private sector efforts such as YES.

“By connecting the SA Youth platform to other platforms in the network, such as the DEL’s Employment Services South Africa, JOBJACK and the NYDA’s ERP platform, the National Pathway Management Network is providing young people with access to a wide range of opportunities across all partners,” said Morolong.