Youth unemployment in South Africa has reached boiling point and has spurred on heated political debates and mass protests ending in violence. Governments around the world have tried to react to the mass youth protests and the swelling problem by implementing labour market policies, such as subsidised wages, tax incentives and encouraging school-work transition through apprenticeships and training programmes.
However, the unemployment figures have continued to soar and have not shown signs of slowing down.
The rising levels of youth unemployment can be effectively curbed through the promotion of entrepreneurship as a viable career choice for young South Africans. However, it requires a committed change in South Africa's public perception and culture.Living on R8 a day
The UN estimated last year that 74.8 million young people, between the ages 15 and 24, remained unemployed worldwide, while 6.4 million youths dropped out of the labour force globally. According to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, the youths of today are three times more likely be unemployed in comparison to adults, while one in five young working people live on R8 a day.
Recent statistics, released by the latest Labour Force Survey, paint a dire picture for South Africa's young. "Youth unemployment has increased by 9.9 percent since last quarter and is now standing at a staggering 42 percent. The government has tried to absorb the high unemployment numbers through various state programmes and has been actively promoting entrepreneurship in the hopes of reaching its goal of 5 million jobs created by 2020. However, according to Adcorp, a large discrepancy exists in the formal employment market - 800 000 vacancies are available in the private sector, yet 600 000 university graduates remain unemployed.Decline in entrepreneurial levels
The 2011 South African GEM report, released last week, has also revealed a significant decline in entrepreneurial levels among South Africa's youths. Entrepreneurship levels of people aged between 18 and 34 have declined significantly by 16 percent between 2010 and 2011. Evidence, from the recent released GEM report, shows that young entrepreneurs in South Africa chose self-employment out of necessity rather than being motivated by attractive opportunities.
These statistics are very worrying and show signs of an unhealthy entrepreneurial culture in South Africa. The manner in which a country supports and recognises its entrepreneurs determines the culture of entrepreneurship and, ultimately, moulds the future of the economy. A positive entrepreneurial culture is not something that can be simply put in place. It begins at the roots of society and needs to be carefully nurtured.
I believe that the roots to South Africa's entrepreneurial problem can be linked to South Africa's educational structures. Both South Africa's formal and informal educational structures do not prepare the young to become skilled entrepreneurs. Not only has the structure ill equipped the young to become entrepreneurs, but it has created a culture in which young South Africans dream of becoming employee's rather than employers.Talents need to be developed
Not all individuals possess the qualities to become an entrepreneur and, therefore, these qualities and talents need to be developed accordingly. Youths should be exposed to entrepreneurship via the South African education system, as well as leaders and managers of businesses where they work.
As the business world continues to evolve rapidly, an increasing number of young entrepreneurs, such as Facebook's Marc Zuckerberg, are emerging as successful entrepreneurs and outright market leaders in their respective industries. Sanlam and Business Partners, the competition's co-sponsors, would like to recognise the ability and deserved success of South Africa's young entrepreneurs by encouraging them to enter the 2012 Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year competition, which boasts an array of advantages for both finalists and winners.
Entrepreneurs interested in entering can download entry forms online at www.eoy.co.za