Unemployment and youth development pathways: A case study of Botshabelo, Free State, South Africa

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Yanta, Dimakatso Veronica
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University of the Free State
Unemployment is a serious socio-economic challenge for many countries, thereby warranting international interest as evidenced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), wherein the promotion of sustainable, inclusive, and decent jobs for all is advocated (World Bank, 2015). Cloete (2012) defines unemployment as an economic issue that possesses a threat to human dignity. The focus on youth unemployment is motivated by the fact that youth are the biggest cohort with an unemployment rate of 43.2% of new jobseekers in the first quarter of 2021 and are therefore the most vulnerable group regarding unemployment (StatsSA, 2021). Unemployment here refers to those who can work and are looking for work, but cannot find work (Cloete, 2012). Cloete (2012) continues to describe unemployment in the South African context as having an indisputable structural or systemic character. Systemic unemployment refers to a pattern, practice, or policy of discrimination that has a broad impact on a class or category of persons within an industry, profession, company, or geographic area. For example, when older employed workers are pushed to leave their jobs in order to accommodate young employees on jobs like internships, learnership, and apprenticeships (Lopez, Hart & Katz, 2021). Structural unemployment on the other hand, implies the total inability of an economy to provide opportunities for the overall labour force. This is the type of unemployment that is the hardest to address because of limited available resources. This can be seen by the increasing number of unemployed youths in South Africa. This has resulted in the strain of the unstable economy and lack of jobs in the country. In addition to clarifying the term "unemployment" it is necessary to define "youth" as a concept. Youth is a broad and disputed concept because of its operational definition, which differs widely from country to country. The United Nations defines "youth" as people between 15 and 24 years of age (United Nations, 1992). In South Africa, youth are defined as people aged 14 to 35 (National Youth Act, 1996). According to Du Toit (2003:4), "the age of 15 years is the stage at which children are permitted to enter the labour market in South Africa." Having explained these different definitions, it will be proper to use the South African definition for the purpose of this study. The South African definition of youth seems ideal, given the context in which the study is taking place. The study will explore development pathways and how unemployment impacts these youth development pathways. A Pathways Framework will be used to provide clear, explicit experiential goals for youth. The pathways approach believes that it is never too late to start with the development of youth (Chi, 2010). The pathways lens looks at how individuals move within, across, and through learning spaces toward possible futures. It therefore means that pathways are the yardsticks of how an individual's future is designed, shifted, or facilitated by external structures (Bell & Blauflower, 2012). The study will continue to investigate the effect of unemployment on these development pathways globally, in South Africa, and eventually in Botshabelo township. The concepts, causes, and development pathways will be thoroughly discussed in the literature review chapter. It is important to note that South Africa’s concept of youth development is influenced by the historical conditions, particularly apartheid, that have shaped the country and its democratic goals. This history is based on the need to attain the principles of social and economic justice, human rights, empowerment, and participatory citizenship. In this study, youth development refers to the process of finding employment and developing young people's livelihoods so that they can participate in economic activities (Hill, Skattebol, Griffiths & Wong, 2015). Development determines South Africa’s future; hence, it is at the core of its development agenda (UNFPA, 2006; Moultrie & McGrath, 2007). Youth unemployment and development should be addressed and attained through integrated and sustainable policies and programs that seek to improve the quality of their lives.
Dissertation (MDS (Development Studies))--University of the Free State, 2022