A governance perspective on policies and practices combating youth unemployment in South Africa
Phokontsi, Gaelebale Lilly
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The purpose of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of South African youth development policies in ensuring the development and empowerment, especially regarding employment, of young people in the country. The research is based on policies such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) Act of 2008, the National Youth Policy 2015-2020, and the National Development Plan: Vision 2030, which is a policy that ensures effective service delivery in a cost-effective manner, while ensuring that the rights of all citizens of South Africa are protected. The study observed that unemployment is high amongst youth in South Africa and that this has a direct bearing on poverty levels and standards of living. The impact and effects of the strategies that are adopted to prevent youth unemployment are not reported in a manner that outlines their effectiveness and efficiency in dealing with youth development and employment. This scenario posed a problem for the research. Hence, the study focused on these policies to address the challenges facing youth and to attempt to synergise the policy implementation process for efficiency and accountability in governance. The study utilised qualitative research and the critical approach, as this is social studies research. Phenomenology was used to grasp the situation. The approach is meant to make an objective judgement and ensure an emancipation agenda, which exposed the needs and struggles of the youth. To achieve its objectives, the study introduced and defined concepts such as policy, policy process, policy analysis and policy theory, which were key in the analysis of policy. Within the policy process, the study focused on policy stages, such as problem identification, agenda setting, policy formulation, policy analysis, and policy implementation. Furthermore, the study defined the concept governance and its theories because these theories were later used in the application to decide on the relevant theory, which could work in addressing the youth development issues and challenges discussed in the study. Amongst the theories was the rational choice theory, the elite theory, the interpretive theory, the network systems theory and the developmental theory. The governance principles and modes were brought in as part of the discussion because modes are critical for decision-making and failure to adhere to the principles results in government’s inability to provide for and protect the basic human rights of the youth. The study outlined the challenges faced by youth in South Africa to justify the investigation because young people are drowning in problems that seem to mushroom into greater socio-economic and political problems, which the government is unable to handle. Then, content gathered through the policy and governance theory was applied to determine the relevant theory that could be applied to remedy the dire situation through theory application challenges. This includes the deployment of unskilled implementers; the role of the NYDA as an implementing agency; the supply-side approach of the government; the government’s consultation and engagement processes; poor monitoring systems; the centralised education curriculum; and poor planning versus the implementation of government programmes. The process enabled the research to conclude that network governance should be applied in South Africa and the theory is in line with the District Development Model (DDM), adopted by the government in 2019. The motivation for network governance stems from the findings of the study that youth development challenges are related to policy process, specifically implementation. The failure in implementation can be traced back to NYDA’s capacity to influence process. Government possess inadequate monitoring and evaluation strategies. The education system which is central to development and capacity building of youth requires review and realignment. Despite acknowledgement of the importance of good governance principles, government failed in application of these principles. The confusion related to the definition of the concept youth by various policies impedes service to youth. Hence, the view that network system of governance is relevant and necessary to tackle youth unemployment from a collective worldview. Network governance is promoted because it promotes a collaborative, collective, and inclusive approach to youth development. It calls for collective decision-making and allows transparency and openness in the implementation of youth programmes. The study acknowledges the strength of network governance because stakeholders share responsibilities, expertise, skills, institutional capacity and planning sessions. Communication and consultations are key in network governance. Through the findings, the study made various recommendations in relation to governance, leadership, capacity building for the NYDA, and the review and realignment of the education system. The outline of the effectiveness of network governance is highlighted through the Youth Development Framework, which was developed to guide the implementation of network governance in addressing youth unemployment. The Framework highlights the role of stakeholders from the key sectors, such as the social, public, academic and private sector, as youth development problems cannot be resolved by the public sector singlehandedly. Collaboration is key to youth development and empowerment. Finally, it can be deduced that youth unemployment is the result of poor governance and poor policy implementation. The government must strive towards collaborative governance to succeed in empowering young people.