To date, policies that have been implemented have largely been supply-side initiatives aimed at the structural causes of youth unemployment. These include targeting the formal education system, post-school training, public employment and deployment programs, entrepreneurship interventions and an attempt at job placement programs. From the demand side, an employment subsidy has been recently proposed by the National Treasury to incentivize employers to hire young people.
The South African government has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at creating jobs and reducing unemployment, as well as ameliorating the impact of high unemployment on individuals and their households. The past 20 years has seen a significant expansion of the existing social grants system that, while not specifically targeting the unemployed, has helped reduce poverty among households impacted by unemployment. Thus, by mid-2013, nearly 16.2 million social grants of various types were being paid by government on a monthly basis, equivalent to over
30 percent of the country’s population. Further, there is some evidence that
social grants have helped facilitate job search among unemployed household members.
There is general recognition, though, that government alone cannot resolve the unemployment crisis. As a result, there are now a significant number of ongoing interventions spearheaded by organizations in the non-governmental and non-profit spheres. These interventions range from small business support to youth training, to the provision of bursaries for education and training, to facilitating the matching process between job seekers and employers.
In summary, there are certainly concerns around South Africa’s youth unemployment policy interventions in terms of design, targeting and ability to adequately address the needs of young labor market entrants as well as employers. Perhaps the key constraint in generating impact has been scalability, as many interventions have been too small or too localized to impact aggregate unemployment rates. An important lesson is that supply-side initiatives addressing structural issues are insufficient on their own to generate sufficient new jobs. Instead, these interventions should interface closely with demand-side incentive programs. There are, also, political economy constraints that need to be resolved. For example, the generalized lack of jobs results in resistance to certain interventions on the part of those who view them as a zero-sum game between the youth and older workers.