Speech by the Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini on commemoration of World Population Day, Southern Sun Hotel-Pretoria
11 Jul 2011
Programme Director, Mr Jacques van Zuydam
Deputy Minister of Social Development, uMama Maria Ntuli
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr Augustinho Zacarius
Mr Mark Schreiner from the United Nations Population Fund
Member of the National Planning Commission, Dr Mirriam Altman
Dr Monde Makiwane from Human Science Research Council
Dr Golda Chimere-Dan from Human Science Research Council
CEO of the National Youth Development Agency, Dr Steven Ngobeni
Dr Charles Sheppard from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Ladies and gentlemen
It is indeed an honour for me to join citizens of the world in commemoration of the World Population Day. Today marks the 24 anniversary of this day since it was first commemorated on the 11th July 1987. In that year, the world had reached 5 billion and is now expected to reach 7 billion by October this year.
This day seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, particularly in the context of development plans and programmes as well as the need to find solutions for the challenges facing the world.
Internationally, this year's theme is: "Seven Billion People Counting Each Other". This theme is a call for action and an opportunity to engage with people about what it means to live in a world of seven billion.
In line with the international theme, South Africa developed its own, which is: “The Prospects for the Demographic Dividend in South Africa”. I take this opportunity to congratulate the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for choosing a theme that reflects contemporary universal population and development challenges.
The current world population projections point to the importance of creating opportunities for young people who constitute the majority in many African countries, including South Africa.
Our focus this year is on the youth. Essentially, this is because when young people exercise their right to health and education, and have access to descent work, they can contribute significantly to extricate their countries from poverty and under development.
In our context, the majority of the unemployed are young people. Government continues to prioritise the youth in its development initiatives. This includes issues of access to education and training, as well as access to health services or programmes that encourage healthy lifestyles and discourage alcohol and substance abuse.
As we commemorate this day, we must remember that South Africa’s population size has surpassed 50 million. The fact that we have pursued our population policy within a democratic framework has accelerated the demographic transition in South Africa.
Our country has experienced a decline in fertility due to improved access to primary health facilities as well as strengthened sexual and reproductive health rights especially for women.
This has been complemented by declines in mortality, set off especially by increased access and effective management of HIV and AIDS. Therefore the anticipation is that deaths due HIV and AIDS will decrease, thus keeping the youth population still very high. The South African age structure over the last decade has indicated that the country is in a demographic transition stage marking the threshold of the demographic window of opportunity.
The youth of South Africa now constitute over 40 percent of the total population. The Age Dependency Ratio has dropped from 57.5 to 56.2 between 2001 and 2010. This implies that over the next several decades we would continue to see a rise in our workforce which would also provide the critical energy and dynamism to sustain our economic growth path. The government is wary that the demographic window of opportunity is transient. It is a once-off benefit that dissipates as the current youth population ages.
It is only when women have fewer children than before the demographic transition that they are therefore released to take jobs outside of the home. In addition, women tend to be better educated and are therefore more productive in the labour force. Their participation in the labour force, in turn, enhances their social status, decision making in matters such as family planning and personal independence.
Family income can be focused more upon better food for infants, including girls. Their incomes can also go towards prolonged education for girls, and for teenagers of both sexes, to improve their life prospects.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As the Department of Social Development, we are responsible for overseeing and implementation of the Population Policy in South Africa. The focus areas from the population policy include children and Youth as well as Gender and HIV and AIDS as they pose major population challenges.
South Africa has ratified the African Youth Charter, which was adopted by the Assembly of the African Union, and enforced from August 2009. The Charter creates a legally binding framework for governments to develop supportive policies and programmes for young people and provide a platform for youth to fulfil their responsibility to contribute towards the continent’s development.
South Africa is one of the few countries in Africa that has comprehensive youth policy. The National Youth Policy 2009-2014 prioritises four policy imperatives, namely: education, health and well-being, economic participation and social cohesion.
It is a sad reality that South Africa has exceptionally high rates of youth HIV and AIDS, unemployment, crime and education failures, among other things. In 2010, South Africa was among ten countries with the lowest level of employment in the world. This is a major concern given that unemployment has been shown to be a key factor that contributes to poverty and inequalities. Unemployment currently sits at 31.2 percent. This means that 5.9 million people are currently unemployed as at 31 December 2010, and of the total unemployed, 4.1 million people (70%) are youth, those between the ages 15 and 35 years.
The youth’s inability to find decent work creates a sense of low self-esteem, and propensity to crime, violence and substance abuse. In terms of social cohesion, it is worrying that out of the total inmate population in the South African prisons of 164,793, an astonishing 56 520 are youth.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To deal with job creation, entrepreneurship is an avenue that youth development can explore. Currently only 33 and 40 percent of the businesses and cooperative membership respectively are people between the ages of 16 to 34 years. The government is striving to provide an opportunity to raise the share of youth-owned businesses and support cooperatives.
Social entrepreneurship is another area that needs exploration in our context. It may be useful for the youth development sector to explore and harness this approach in the quest to increase entrepreneurship amongst the youth, especially in rural areas. Addressing unemployment is not only about the ability of the economy to absorb labour, but it is also a function of the level of education and work experience of young people.
Education is a critical determinant of youth’s skills and capacity development that enables them to gain employment and/or start their own business enterprises. While South Africa has performed relatively well with respect to school enrolment levels, there is still a challenge of dealing with drop outs in the system and the quality of education. In an attempt to increase access to schooling the Department of Education has made some of the schools no‐fee schools. In 2010 about 81 percent of the schools were no‐fee schools and 11, 8 million learners benefitted from these schools.
In youth development, a healthy lifestyle is an important precursor for the success of our youth. This is because illness and risky behaviour seriously curtail the youth’s development. Teenage pregnancy, HIV infection are things that can curtail the completion of education for young women and men, further preventing their successful participation in various aspects of society.
In South Africa, approximately 25 percent of children below the age of 16 experience sexual intercourse and 10 percent of teenagers experience a pregnancy. High teenage sexual activity is also a proxy to high rates of Child Sexual Abuse and exposure to HIV transmission, especially among girls. In South Africa a third of rape victims are under 17 years old and children are the victims in 41 percent of all incidents of rape and attempted rape.
HIV and Aids remains the major cause of death in South Africa. The prevalence is high for the youth aged 19 to 35 than the rest of the population, with the highest prevalence being among female youth between the ages of 25‐29. The prevalence rates show a strong age and gender dimensions, which means that the interventions aimed at dealing with the issue should take this into account.
Recent studies on youth risk behaviour show that a significant proportion of young people are involved are risky behaviours that would adversely affect their health. More than 40 percent of the youth reported to have more than two sexual partners, with 14 percent of them having engaged in sex after using drugs.
The consistence use of condoms during sex was found to be 30.7 percent in the youth population. Young people seemed to be more involved in violent behaviour, with more than a third involved in physical fight and got injured in the fights. There is also a sad issue of substance abuse, including tobacco, with 21 percent of young people being regular smokers and 34 percent being regular alcohol users and a significant proportion of them using hard drugs such as cannibals, heroine and cocaine.
Ladies and gentlemen,
All the issues I alluded to reveal that we need effective policies in key areas of our country’s development. Health and sanitation interventions need to be prioritised in order to lay the foundation for a healthy workforce, while education and training should be improved in order to transform the population into a productive work force. The developmental potential can however only be unlocked if adequate job opportunities are created. It is also important to ensure a service delivery path that will ensure that the country taps into effective social, economic and political development potential of the youth.
In conclusion, I must mention that as part of our priorities as a department, we have plans to recruit and train 10 000 Child and Youth Care Workers over the next three years. We are hoping that the data that will emerge from the Census 2011 will give us a much clearer picture on the number of child-headed households in the country, which will help us develop more targeted interventions.
The data from Census 2011 will also assist our government to consolidate its achievements in key areas such as the provision of health, education, water, electricity and housing.The data is also essential to monitor progress as government strives to achieve the goals and targets set out in the five priorities as well as measuring progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Source: Department of Social Development
Issued by: Department of Social Development
11 Jul 2011
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