The challenge of youth unemployment is shaped by factors in both the labour market and the education system, alongside intricate community, household and individual-level issues. This complex mixture may make it a seemingly intractable problem. While long-term solutions need to be discussed and implemented, certain options warrant attention in the short to medium term. If these were efficiently addressed, we could begin to break down the barriers that prevent entry into the labour market for at least some young people.
It has been argued that properly focused workplace intermediaries can reshape the labour market to become more youth friendly. Case studies of NGO intermediaries in South Africa offer some optimism but also caution in this regard. Although the intermediaries were able to match unemployed youth to jobs, smooth the transition to work and even positively influence employers’ reticence, they are small in scale and costs are high – and they have yet to broker larger pacts to add more jobs.
Labour-market intermediaries can make a significant contribution to the reduction of youth unemployment.They recognise that the demand for labour is not fixed. By reshaping the attributes and broader workplace skills of the young jobseeker, labour market intermediaries can help overcome employers’ reticence to employing first-time workers. Such interventions, although small in scale, may be more successful than larger public works schemes of government. The potential positive impact of such intermediaries is demonstrated with international examples.
It is important to know whether a social grant such as the old age pension eases financial constraints in rural areas, thereby allowing young men to migrate to urban areas for work – or whether these grants encourage idleness and dependency. This study finds no evidence of the latter. Instead, for young rural males there is an increase in their chances of migrating and finding work when a member of the household starts receiving the pension. Notably, these effects are only present for young men with at least a matric.
The Employment Incentive Tax Bill offers tax subsidies to firms to employ new young workers. An evaluation of the impact of a wage subsidy voucher indicates that employment incentives increase the likelihood of young job-seekers being employed; they also increase the time young people remain employed. There is no evidence of older or existing workers being replaced. Such incentives are a relatively cheap and effective way to create employment, but are unlikely to create large numbers of jobs for young people.