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Friday, 09 February 2024 13:00

SONA 2024: Ramaphosa touts 'thousands' of jobs for young people.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised the unemployed youth of South Africa jobs and opportunities that will alleviate their poverty, hunger, and suffering. 

Delivering the final State of the Nation Address (SONA) for the sixth administration, Ramaphosa emphasised that government is determined to take immediate action in providing employment opportunities for young individuals, underscoring the urgency of addressing this crucial challenge.

Millions of young people aged 15 to 24 years across the country are currently not in employment, education or training.

While economic growth was essential to reduce unemployment, Ramaphosa said they could not wait to provide the work that many of democracy's children needed.

Praising his government's efforts, the president said they launched the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES) three years ago to boost employment for the youth.

"Through this programme, we have created more than 1.7 million work and livelihood opportunities."

Through the stimulus, we have placed more than 1 million school assistants in 23,000 schools, providing participants with valuable work experience while improving learning outcomes," he said.

He applauded the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) for setting up several initiatives to provide opportunities for young people including the National Youth Service and Youth Employment Service.

"These programmes matter because work matters to people. The NYDA has played a key role in assisting several young people to start their own businesses," he said.

He added that a job did not only provide an income, he said it was fundamental to people's sense of self-worth, dignity, hope, purpose and inclusion.

Furthermore, Ramaphosa, with confidence, said the number of South Africans in employment increased from 8 million in 1994 to over 16.7 million to date, stating that was three times larger than it was 30 years ago.

"Over the last two years, the number of jobs being created has been increasing every quarter, and we now have more people in employment than before the pandemic, "he said.

This is despite the country's unemployment being the highest it has ever been.

The President further highlighted that the proportion of jobs in executive management held by black people increased almost five-fold between 1996 and 2016.

However, Nkosinathi Mahlangu, youth employment portfolio head at Momentum Metropolitan, believes the SONA 2024 fell short in terms of addressing youth employment initiatives and progress.

"The president looked deeply at the rear view mirror by reflecting on the last 30 years, and while he acknowledged a few gaps (such as the fact that our youth unemployment remains the highest it's ever been), there was little emphasis on how to overcome these gaps.

"There were not many tangibles - vague references to employment opportunities, but there is a big difference between job opportunities and actual jobs. I would have liked him to give indication of whether these job [opportunities] equated to permanent jobs, in which sectors, provinces and even gender split (knowing that women are historically more disadvantaged than men). He also did not clarify on what role the private sector could play and what role the government could play going forward.

"It's important to be optimistic, but we also need to be realistic. Youth unemployment remains a massive challenge. The president says the youth inspire our country - but the question is, does our country inspire the youth," says Mahlangu.