Youth unemployment: can labour-market intermediaries help?

17th September 2015 By: Econ3x3

Youth unemployment: can labour-market intermediaries help?

Youth unemployment remains one of the most vexing problems facing South Africa. Numerous ideas, proposals and policy initiatives have been proposed or tried out. Yet the problem persists. Most observers look to the government or alternatively to private-sector employers for solutions. The question arises as to whether we are looking widely or creatively enough for policies or institutions that can help address the situation.

This article examines the potential role of a different type of institution, i.e. labour market intermediaries, in enabling young job-seekers to gain access to jobs. What such an intermediary can do, if it adopts an appropriate focus, is to actively change the ‘mismatch’ or inefficiencies in the labour market between (a) the attributes and broader workplace skills of job-seekers and (b) the employers’ (i.e. firms’) demand for labour and in particular the reticence of employers to employ first-time entrants.

While prevalent internationally, such intermediaries have not really been used in South Africa. The purpose of this article is to highlight the potential of these labour market intermediaries and encourage experimentation with them in South Africa (see Kraak 2015).

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Written by Andre Kraak, Research Chair in Political Economy of Skills, Wits School of Education

This article was first published on the Econ3x3 website – Accessible policy-relevant research and expert commentaries on unemployment and employment, income distribution and inclusive growth in South Africa.