Expanding opportunities for young job-seekers - Mmusi Maimane

DA leader says his party would, once in govt, immediately introduce a Youth Wage Subsidy

Expanding Opportunities for Young Job-seekers

8 June 2015

This Saturday, we launch #Vision2029 – our blueprint for the future South Africa we’d like to build with you.

Accordingly, I’m on the last leg of my Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity tour, where I have been engaging communities across the country about these three core values, and how we can use them as a foundation on which to build our country.

This week I have engagements planned in Limpopo and the Northern Cape – the only two provinces I have yet to visit on this tour. It has been a jam-packed three weeks, but worth every minute.

I come away from this tour with an incredible sense of hope and belief. Every community I visited has confirmed that we – the DA and all those who support our dream for SA – are on the right track, and that there are many who coalesce around the values of freedom, fairness and opportunity.

In last week’s Bokamoso message, I spoke about what we can do to open more opportunities for South Africans through quality education. I said that this would be one of the first priorities of a DA-led national government.

I spoke mainly about fixing foundation phase schooling – teaching our children to read – as well as about ensuring that our high schools equip our children to enter a diverse choice of tertiary education options.

But what happens after that? What happens to school leavers and graduates when they must step into the “real world” and apply for their first job?

Too often I hear the same story from young people: “I have this degree, or I have that diploma, or I have a certificate in this field, but I simply cannot get a job for which I am qualified.” 

Far too many young South Africans end up disappointed and discouraged because they feel their skills are not recognised.

So, while we are busy stimulating our economy to get businesses ticking over to create millions of jobs, we must also look at the supply side of the job market: How do we ensure that enough people are qualified to fill these jobs, and that they are then spotted and taken on board by employers?

A DA-led national government would start by immediately introducing a Youth Wage Subsidy. We have been calling for its implementation for a long time now, but the finance minister remains silent on the issue. Instead, government chose to introduce a watered-down version called the Employment Tax Incentive, which has made no impact on youth unemployment.

A strong Youth Wage Subsidy is, in effect, a tax rebate for an employer to incentivise the hiring of young job-seekers. It doesn’t affect the Total Cost To Company of the recruit and has no impact on his or her salary.

It is crucial that we push ahead with this subsidy as it will play an important role in kick-starting the careers of thousands of young South Africans and getting them onto the first rung of the ladder of our economy.

Given that 67% of unemployed people in South Africa are under the age of 35, we cannot afford to twiddle our thumbs, hoping that the economy will pick up at some point. We need urgent interventions that will get young South Africans working.

But the Youth Wage Subsidy cannot help every young job-seeker out there. It needs to be implemented alongside various other plans to get young people into jobs.

One such a plan is the introduction of an Opportunity Voucher Scheme whereby eligible young South Africans can access funding to start a business or further their education or skills development.

Then we also need to start educating the youth about the fields of work in which we have skills shortages, and encourage and direct as many people as possible towards qualifying in these fields.

From business and government’s side, we must dramatically expand our apprenticeship and internship programmes. A DA-led government will create hundreds of thousands of internship opportunities, of which at least 20 000 a year will be in government departments.

As I mentioned last week, when I spoke about diversifying our high schools, we need to place a bigger focus on vocational training. Many young South Africans will not end up studying towards a degree or a diploma, and it is crucial that they too are equipped with the skills to find work.

We can start by introducing a Vocational Training and Apprenticeship Programme, which will sync development at the workplace with classes offered at Further Education and Training (FET) colleges.

Apprentices in the programme would be paid a small salary by the employer, which would be subsidised by a stipend from the relevant education department. This salary will then increase as the person’s skills advance.

After three years, the apprentice will have to pass an exam in order to obtain a certificate of qualification.

These are all plans than can be implemented right away – all that is required is the political will to do so. Sadly, the ANC government has demonstrated, time and again, that they do not have this will.

The good news, however, is that we are heading towards a future where we will be able to implement these plans. Change is coming, and that change is led by the DA.

Under a DA-led government, our young people will truly be empowered to take advantage of opportunities. And once this happens, our country will move forward towards a future that is both inclusive and prosperous.

Issued by the DA, June 8 2015