Business, Growth and Inclusion: Tackling Youth Unemployment in Cities, Towns and Townships

In this research report, CDE focuses on the 20 municipal regions with the highest number of unemployed young people and considers possible solutions that will have a significant impact in these, sometimes very different, locations. Youth unemployment afflicts metros like Johannesburg and Cape Town, where it is often concentrated in townships; it devastates secondary cities such as Rustenburg and Matjhabeng (Welkom) whose economies are in a severe slump and it is a structural feature especially of rural towns such as Bushbuckridge. The overall challenge of significantly reducing these high unemployment levels will involve systemwide reforms, but finding solutions will need to take local factors of geography, demography and economic potential into account. The first section of the report provides research statistics on each of the regions CDE visited for this project and discusses the relative economic potential of each region. On the basis of this evidence we then reflect on how regional differences should be taken into account when designing policies to tackle youth unemployment. In the second section we argue that local governments in municipal regions with economic potential should prioritise enterprise-led growth. In the third section we explore additional policy issues that could be considered at a regional level. These include finding ways to help young people with the challenges of job-search and the possibilities of setting up special economic zones in specific parts of South Africa. The final section sets out the policy priorities that emerge from our research and analysis.