South Africa's NEETs Crisis: Why we are Failing to Connect Young People to Work

The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated South Africa and created a plethora of inter-linked crises that threaten to overwhelm us. In this context, it is vital, as the quote from Paul Romer makes clear, not to lose sight of the youth unemployment catastrophe. This was our greatest challenge before Covid, and, apart from the urgent task of rolling out vaccines as quickly as possible, it must remain a vital priority now. The organised insurrection following ex-President Jacob Zuma’s arrest led to opportunistic looting, especially by poor and desperate young people in the country’s two most populous provinces, reflecting young people’s rising frustration and desperation. Tackling youth unemployment in a concerted way is even more urgent now. The report examines the various ways in which young people, once they have completed school, could be better connected to an expanding economy, and delves into specific interventions that should be considered to help the most disadvantaged. We then describe and assess what government and the private sector are currently doing to mitigate the youth unemployment crisis, before delving into the challenges in our public training system. The document concludes by setting out the priorities for tackling this most urgent of all crises. We set out recommendations for government as well as the private sector, with a focus on post-school interventions.