Ticking Time Bomb or Demographic Dividend ? Youth and Reconciliation in South Africa

"This year’s Reconciliation Barometer report focuses on youth attitudes emerging from round 12 of this nationally representative public opinion survey, conducted annually by the IJR since 2003. Until recently, it has been a challenge to measure and analyse the attitudes of the ‘born-free’ generation, but this is becoming increasingly possible as those born during and after the democratic transition begin to reach the age of majority. On some issues, there is very little difference between the attitudes of youth and older generations. However, other indicators show fractures in opinion, emerging shifts and signals of change that may be yet to come. While many public institutions continue to earn high levels of public support and confidence, this endorsement is lower among racial minority groups. Youth appear less likely than adults to trust that national leaders will act in the best interests of the country, yet also believe more firmly that they have the ability to influence public officials and decision-makers, although the ways they intend to do so are not always clear. Young people are also extremely optimistic about their future economic prospects – perhaps overly so, given the country’s relatively lacklustre performance in creating and sustaining job growth. Some youth appear cynical about workplace transformation programmes, which they believe to be significant obstacles to labour force entry. Consensus remains among many South Africans about the historical truths of the country’s apartheid past, but divides are evident among both youth and adults and across race lines about whether social change is possible given current inequality, the lasting economic impact of apartheid’s legacy and obligations of restitution to victims."