Address By Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, MP at the Signing Ceremony of the Joint Declaration of the Education and Training Sectoral Dialogue Forum between South Africa and the European Commission, University of the Western Cape
17 May 2012
Your Excellency, European Commission’s Director-General for Education and Culture, Jan Truszczyński
Your Excellency, Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to the
Republic of South Africa, Roeland van de Geer,
Vice Chancellors of our universities,
Chief Executive Officer of the Cape Higher Education Consortium, Nasima Badsha,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors of the European Union Member States,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am greatly honoured to address you during the signing ceremony of the Joint Declaration of the Education and Training Sectoral Policy Dialogue Forum, between South Africa and the European Commission. This Joint Declaration has been under discussion since 2008, when the idea to establish an Education and Training Sectoral Policy Dialogue Forum was mooted here in Cape Town, during the annual Joint Cooperation Council meeting between South Africa and the European Commission.
Excellencies, the establishment of this Dialogue Forum is informed by a mutual recognition that during this period of global geo-political realignment driven by economic vulnerability, our interdependence and our respective national interests require that we intensify our bilateral cooperation to address our mutual challenges on all fronts.
According to Statistics South Africa’s Quarter 1, 2012 Labour Force Survey, and the current unemployment rate in South Africa stands at 25, 2%. In terms of numbers, 4, 5 million South Africans are unemployed. Although the common trend is to experience rising unemployment in the first quarter of the year, this number is still unacceptably high especially if one takes into account the millions of young people who are Not in Education, Not in Employment and not in Training (NEET).
The 2012 First Quarterly Survey has identified that the students constitute the biggest share of economically inactive citizens at 41, 5%. The survey has further established that 73% of the age group 15-24 years is economically inactive. During the period of January to March 2012, the largest job losses were recorded in the Construction (71 000) and Manufacturing (67 000) industries. Our economy, on the other hand, has created 447 000 jobs in the first quarter of 2012 but unemployment levels continue to rise in less industrialised parts of the country.
This situation requires us to ensure that South Africans, especially the youth, are equipped with the relevant skills for the economy. We have similarly also taken note of anecdotal reports that indicate that with the fiscal challenges that have lately afflicted some European Union Member States, rising unemployment amongst young people has been a global trend.
The dynamics at work may be different for South Africa and the countries under the European Union but this does not necessarily preclude us from cooperating in our search for policy solutions, which must inevitably encompass a paradigm shift necessitated by the globalised challenge of unemployment.
As a Department with a mandate to ensure that there is a planned skills development in the country, we have policies and plans in place. We are ensuring through the National Skills Development Strategy 111 that there is sufficient funding for skills development and the research capacity of our institutions is strengthened through research funding allocations and collaboration with bodies such as the National Research Foundation. We will constantly need international partnerships in ensuring that our policies on skills development are resourced and effectively implemented.
The thrust of my address before you today, is that we need to strengthen partnerships and ensure that our dialogue is informed by empirical evidence and our respective national priorities. We need to put more emphasis on skills development and the creation of academic and work opportunities for our young people.
Benefits of the Dialogue Forum
I insist that the benefits of this Dialogue Forum are many. It allows us equal footing, not in the context of traditional official development assistance where there is a benefactor and a beneficiary, but rather as partners seeking redemption and thus using a single vehicle to amass the intellectual capital on the basis of which policy approaches could be considered and tested. Where else, in the parlance of Mao Tse Tung, can we ‘let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend’, if not in the Dialogue Forum? The Dialogue Forum, through its many pursuits, is therefore the right avenue to assist us as policy makers, in not only building greater people-to-people camaraderie between South Africa and the European Commission, amongst others, but also to find concrete solutions for the youth un-employability that has afflicted us.
Lastly, permit me Ladies and Gentlemen, to congratulate our political principals for sustaining the on-going collaboration between us, which is now being entrenched through the Dialogue Forum. The Department looks forward to continuing to work with the European Commission and the Member States within the ambit of the Dialogue Forum.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Higher Education and Training
17 May 2012
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