Johannesburg – While South Africa’s youth are optimistic about their future in the workplace, they face a multitude of obstacles, including hunger and the high cost of looking for jobs, according to a University of Johannesburg (UJ) study.

The Siyakha Youth Assets for Employability Study, which surveyed 2 000 young people who participated in youth employability programmes across the country, also found that a lack of information on how to search and apply for jobs, as well as poor access to social networks, were fundamental barriers to finding work.

The research contained in the study by UJ’s Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) comes at a critical time as the government tries to curb soaring unemployment rates, especially among the youth and school-leavers. Over a third of people aged between 15 and 24 are not in employment, education or training despite interventions from the state, such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and the Employment Tax Incentive, popularly known as the youth wage subsidy.

“A key human development assumption is that investment in education can break the cycle of poverty. However, youth in this study have higher levels of education and many have completed some form of post-secondary education or have a training qualification. Yet they still face unemployment and poverty,” said CSDA deputy director Professor Lauren Graham yesterday.

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