SA must implement structural reforms to accelerate economic growth – CDE

29th September 2021 By: Thabi Shomolekae - Creamer Media Senior Writer

SA must implement structural reforms to accelerate economic growth – CDE

CDE CEO Ann Bernstein

Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) CEO Ann Bernstein said South Africa needs to implement a range of structural reforms essential to accelerate economic growth, free up the labour market so that growth could become more labour intensive, and fix a training, skills and education system that is expensive and mainly ineffective.

The CDE launched a new report,' South Africa’s NEETs crisis: Why we are failing to connect young people to work', which examines the role and performance of South Africa’s skills system, and finds that constructive cooperation between businesses and technical and vocational education and training colleges remains the exception rather than the rule.

Bernstein called on government to “stop pretending that if we avoid the big policy issues, the difficult reforms, we can somehow make a difference, and turn this crisis around”.

More than 9-million young South Africans between the ages 15 and 34 are unemployed, uneducated or untrained.

“A society in which there are ever-growing numbers of unemployed and excluded young people with no stake in or prospects for the future cannot expect to remain peaceful and democratic,” she said.

She added that if the country did not tackle youth unemployment, solving other problems may not matter,

Government’s focus on projects, special initiatives, summits and talk shops is the wrong priority, she stated and further explained that this diverted resources and leadership from absolutely essential reforms which were the only way to start tackling the scale of South Africa’s youth challenge.

CDE research included fieldwork in Alexandra, in Gauteng, and in Bushbuckridge, in Mpumalanga.

CDE research director Dr Stefan Schirmer said one of the worst places to be a young person in South Africa is Bushbuckridge with a youth unemployment rate verging on 80%.

CDE interviewed young people who had experienced short spells of employment.

“They sometimes venture out to Nelspruit or even Johannesburg, but they run out of money or have to return home. They always find themselves back where they started: not in employment, education or training,” he said.

Schirmer noted that South Africa’s skills training system was expensive and inefficient because it failed to provide the skills employers were looking for and was characterised by very high dropout rates.

Meanwhile, Bernstein called on government and business to re-examine their priorities, and move away from “ad hoc interventions in failing systems and boutique projects”.

Bernstein said jobs were the first step to individual empowerment and independence.

Download the report here.