Youth and employment : an analysis of South African government youth policies with a focus on eThekwini Municipality.

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Abstract

The youth transition is not just a critical time for an individual but also to one’s family, the greater society and economy. The category “youth” in simple terms can be regarded as the transition in the life cycle from childhood and schooling into adulthood and work. Employment is one of the key factors that guide the youth transition into adulthood – from dependency upon family and community to greater independence and ability to secure one’s own livelihood. If a young person is unable to gain access into the labour market within the first 10 to 12 years, statistically, she will be less likely to have long-term employment throughout her lifetime. These are crucial years to providing mechanisms that actively engage youth in job preparation and employment opportunities. This research explores relevant youth-employment policy and its implementation in a South African local municipality of eThekwini. Research questions were developed to analyse the vertical and horizontal impact of policies at the local level and ask: What measures within national youth policies and strategies have been instituted to address barriers to youth employability in South Africa? Are national youth policies reaching the local level? What approaches have been taken to encourage youth employment at the local level, and what challenges exist in these approaches? The literature review, analysis of policy documents, and semi-structured in-depth interviews with government officials provide a guided yet flexible exploration of information within the context of local implementation of national and local policies for youth employment. Findings reveal an obvious gap between national youth programmes and their connection to municipality departments and programmes. The research process found that in spite of the lack of national services at a local level, the eThekwini Municipality has created its own youth policy and developed its own ways of providing youth services. While the research does unveil a lack of coordination concurrent to the local youth policy outcomes, it can be seen to be taking innovative steps of empowering individuals towards employment opportunities. The study concludes by acknowledging the recent changes in national strategies for youth. It questions whether these national changes will impact youth at the local level or just continue to provide policy that lacks implementation.

Originally published, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2009.

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