Unemployment in South Africa: Causes and Solutions

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South Africa has had a pervasive unemployment problem for the past forty years (Lam, Leibbrandt, & Mlatsheni, 2007). According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey conducted by Stats SA (2012), of the 10.4 million South Africans within the ages of 15 and 24 years, 3.3 million (31.6%) are not in employment, education or training (NEET). The South African government realized that unemployment, inequality and poverty in South Africa are a problem and thus appointed the National Planning Commission (NPC) – chaired by the Minister of Planning, Trevor Manuel – to address these issues. Shortly after its appointment in May 2010, the NPC began working on its long term vision and strategic plan for South Africa – the National Development Plan (NDP). This essay will discuss the causes of youth unemployment in South Africa and, with the aid of economic theory, propose solutions to the problem. Of the 4.5 million unemployed people in South Africa, roughly 86% are black while not even 3% are white (Stats SA, 2012). The uneven spread of unemployment in South Africa is said to be directly linked to its unique political history, specifically, the Apartheid regime (Harakas, 1970). Harakas (1970) simply describes Apartheid as the principle of geographic segregation of races. Such a system gave rise to many consequences, particularly the rigid reinforcement of non-white social, educational, economic and political inferiority (Harakas, 1970). Under the Apartheid regime, non-whites were denied the opportunity to attain quality schooling or to succeed financially which would assist them in affording quality schooling, which Anderson, Case & Lam (2001) found to be an important determinant of subsequent opportunities for employment. Stats SA (2012) found that in general, lower levels of education are associated with high unemployment. At the end of 2012, of the total unemployed population, 61.3% did not have matric, 32.1% had only matric and 6.2% of the unemployed had tertiary qualifications (Stats SA, 2012). This empirical evidence paints a clear picture that receiving an education significantly increases the chance of finding employment. Anderson, Case & Lam (2001) also found it clear that higher parental schooling is associated with higher schooling attainment for children. Because Apartheid lasted for so long, it reached more than one generation, thus further reducing the quality of education a child may receive, directly reducing the chance of finding employment. Increasing a country’s standard of education has no short-term solution. For education to be improved, the teacher situation of South Africa needs to be addressed. Research found that South Africa needs 25000 new teachers every year in order to cope with pupil demand (Simkins, Rule & Bernstein, 2007). The report also concluded that 25% of newly qualified teachers immediately pursue other professions, or emigrate (Simkins et al., 2007). Unfortunately the profession is being shunned by South African students who are opting for more lucrative careers (Nthite, 2006). The CDE’s research also identified that society has poor perceptions about the teaching profession which detracts quality students from aspiring to join the profession (Simkins et al., 2007). To improve the teacher situation the profession needs to be made more attractive with better incentives for good performance. The problem can be solved by increasing teacher salaries, improving teaching conditions and by improving the negative stigma attached to the teaching profession within society. Higher quality students will be attracted to the profession resulting in more high quality teachers available to educate South Africa’s students. By addressing the shortage of teachers, class sizes will drop resulting in even further increased quality of education experienced by learners (Cho, Glewwe & Whitler, 2012). In the long run, this increased level of education acquired by students will lead to a higher chance...
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