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Remarks by Deputy President Paul Mashatile at the official launch of the South Africa National Human Development Report 2022

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Programme Director;
Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu;
Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Mr Buti Manamela;
United Nations Resident Coordinator in South Africa, Mr Nelson Muffuh;
Resident Representative of UNDP in South Africa, Dr Ayodele Odusola;
Executive Deputy Chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency, Ms Karabo Mohale;
Acting Statistician-General of South Africa, Ms Nthabiseng Makhatha;
Chief Executive Officers of the Human Sciences Research Council and of the National Youth Development Agency, Prof Sarah Mosoetsa and Mr Waseem Carrim;
The youth of South Africa;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon!

I would like to thank the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for inviting us to the launch of the South Africa National Human Development Report 2022 under the theme "Harnessing the Employability of South Africa’s Youth."

The government commends the UNDP and its partners for undertaking the research and producing this timely report. Hopefully, the report will shine the light on blindspots on the work we are doing to develop the youth of our country.

To this end, we endorse the five strategic areas recommended in the report; namely:
• the urgent prioritisation of public sector investment in education and skills development as well as scaling up initiatives that harness youth participation in the economy;
• the development of one-stop job services that consolidate existing tools and services;
• the necessity for the expansion of youth entrepreneurship in technology-based and green industries;
• building on shifting gender norms to achieve greater women’s economic empowerment;
• strengthening and expanding the National Youth Service to bridge the school-to-work gap.

We agree with the UNDP when you say: "There is no doubt that the high unemployment rate is a ticking time bomb.

Accordingly, in addressing youth unemployment, the country will simultaneously address poverty and income inequality. Addressing and tackling youth joblessness is not only sound economics but also a development imperative." For its part, the government is pursuing several youth empowerment programmes.

In 2018, we launched the Youth Employment Service Programme, which is part of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, and aims to combat youth unemployment. A collaborative effort between government, business and labour, the programme has placed over 100,000 young people in employment. This concrete evidence of how far we can go when we work together. Without doubt, more needs to be done to benefit as many young people as possible.

As part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme, the government also launched the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (PYEI). Since 2020, the initiative has made significant progress in addressing the difficulty of transitioning youth from learning to earning. Despite its three year existence, more than four million youth have joined the network.

To respond to employers’ requirements for work experience, which first-time entrants into the labour market do not possess, the government has also launched the Public Service Graduate Internship and Learnership Programme, which provides interns with the necessary work experience.

Yet another initiative is the National Rural Youth Service Corps programme, which trains young people in areas such as leadership, community service and interpersonal communication.

Cumulatively, these initiatives should impact positively on moulding young people into responsible members of society who appreciate the relationship between their rights and their responsibilities to society inasmuch as they assist them in acquiring occupational skills necessary to access livelihood opportunities.

Evidently, the challenge is not one of a lack of programmes. It is one about the effectiveness, acceleration and massification of our programmes.

In doing so, we will also have to address leakages throughout the public policy system. For example, the report we are launching found that those without a matric qualification make up a significant proportion of the youth unemployment rate at around 40%, in contrast with only 13 percent of graduates who are unemployed.

However, the Development Bank of Southern Africa also found that: "there is a discrepancy between employers’ needs and the skills of the youth entering the labour force. Paradoxically, many graduates are doing menial jobs that are not in any form linked to their degrees due to the unavailability of opportunities in their chosen fields of study."

Among other things, this means that we should return to the "youth lens" adopted by the drafters of the National Development Plan. 

It is worth recalling that amongst other interventions, the NDP called for:
• the accelerated improvement of the quality of education, skills development, and innovation;
• strengthening of the youth service programmes and the introduction of new, community-based programmes to offer young people life-skills training, entrepreneurial training, and opportunities to participate in community development programmes;
• strengthening and expanding the number of FET colleges to increase the participation rate to 25%;
• increasing the graduation rate of FET colleges to 75%;
• a tax incentive to employers to reduce the initial cost of hiring young labour market entrants;
• a subsidy to the placement sector to identify, prepare, and place matric graduates into work;
• a formalised graduate recruitment scheme for the public service to attract highly skilled people, and;
• expanding the role of state-owned enterprises in training artisans and technical professionals.

We seek to understand the factors that lead to dropouts throughout the schooling system. Implicit in this fact is a deficit of skills and exposure for the young person who does not possess a matric. This means that our interventions have to be more specific and targeted, taking into account the urban-rural divide, race, gender, and the availability of opportunities.

Work also needs to be undertaken by all the social partners to examine the quality of the tuition in FET colleges, the better to derive maximum benefits to the enormous public resources we are expending into this important sector.

None of us needs any tutelage about the importance of skills development. To illustrate the point, in the three days from September 12th to the 15th, South Africa will host the BRICS Future Skills Challenge, in which young people from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will compete to show solutions to the 21st century’s most pressing challenges. 

The skills in question are in the areas of:
• Aircraft Maintenance;
• Agri IOT;
• Building Information Modelling;
• Cyber Security;
• Data Science;
• Digital Twin;
• Drones;
• Internet Marketing;
• Manufacturing Robotics;
• Mobile app development;
• Renewable Energy, and;
• Robotic Process Automation.

It goes without saying that to compete amongst the BRICS nations and the world on a sustained and sustainable basis, we cannot but empower the youth with the wherewithal to acquire the skills of the 21st century. It is here that that the expression: “a country that does not value its youth does not deserve its future” becomes glaringly obvious.

It is equally obvious that the government’s efforts to empower young people must be premised on a growing and inclusive economy. 

This is why it is crucial that the social partners all act in unison about re-industrialising and growing the economy.

We look forward to studying the report to benefit from its insights in our work to empower young people. 

Since the report is about the plight and well-being of young people, we call upon the youth of our country to read and study it and to make the necessary input which only those who feel and know it can expertly make.

I thank you.