NCOP Youth Day debate speech by Thulas Nxesi Minister of Public Works at the National Council of Provinces (NCOP)
8 Jun 2012
Honourable Premiers Present
Honourable Members Of Parliament
Representatives Of Different Political Parties
Distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for inviting me here and allowing me the platform to honour such an important day to our Youth. We were once there and we know how it feels.
Colleagues as I stand before you having passed the stage of being a youth, I am aware of the challenges facing the youth of this country today. It is not a new situation or challenge that you are finding yourselves in as I have once been in that category, but would like to emphasise that the environment and conditions we live under change over time for better or for worse and I must say the situation facing you is getting worse and something must be done.
These are difficult times and painful decisions need to be made. Colleagues let me open my speech with a quote from Henry Wadsworth, a US poet who said: “Youth comes but once in a lifetime”
I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves before you. In a lifetime, some things we experience them only once.
Colleagues, you would also realise that part of the situation confronting us in dealing with the youth crisis is the number of different definitions of the term youth which tend to distort the unemployment figures. I am not here to give a definition but to emphasise the magnitude of the problem regardless of a definition.
If over 50 per cent of the youth in the country is unemployed or rather have never had a job in the last five years and a large portion of the statistics is reported to be in rural areas what does it mean about your future as an individual, the future of young black females and the future of our children?
Remember that as a people, particularly the youth, are a key important factor of production in the economy, that is labour, but I would like to encourage you that you start thinking in a different way and see yourselves as Employers, Entrepreneurs, Leaders of change and Responsible Citizens.
It should be noted that high levels of unemployment are not only costly to the individuals and families but also to local and regional economies and the economy in general. Unemployment causes a waste of scarce economic resources and reduces the long run growth potential of the economy. For instance, research shows that if a young person is unemployed for about three to twelve months, he or she has, on average a 25 percent chance of finding a job. If the unemployment period is between one and five years, there is only a 12 percent chance of finding a job.
The causes of such high levels of unemployment among the youth are widespread and are clearly articulated in research and policy documents, some of them painful. These causes, among others, include:
- An economy that has not grown satisfactorily to be able to absorb young people exiting the schooling system – this reflects the structural weaknesses of the country.
- A weak schooling system that has not provided the necessary skills for the young people to enter the job market and,
- Lack of development of skills, particularly in technical fields. Those that are educated find themselves lacking the required skill by employers.
Studies reveal that persistent youth unemployment has a negative impact on social development. Youth unemployment, in particular long-term youth unemployment, can generate frustration and low self-esteem, and can lead to increased vulnerability among some young people to drugs, disease and crime.
Youth unemployment can also lead to the marginalisation and exclusion of young people. There is evidence that unemployment can expose youth to greater risks of lower future wages, repeated periods of unemployment, longer unemployment spells as adults, and income poverty.
We need to create jobs –decent jobs for the youth and expand opportunities for further job creation and Government is committed to that goal.
Decent jobs for the youth mark an important step in completing the transition to adulthood and this is often seen as a milestone towards independence and self-reliance. It also promotes social integration, intergenerational dialogue, citizenship and solidarity. So finding a job or employment especially for young people living in poverty, is a means of attaining a better life and such can have direct positive consequences for poverty alleviation.
The challenge we often face, however, is the poor or exploitive working conditions. This is a fight we cannot leave for another day; we must deal with it if we are to tackle both youth unemployment and informal and poor working conditions.
3. Public Works programmes on Youth Employment
The Department of Publics Works has a number of programmes that seek to address the crisis of not just the Youth, but also poverty and income relief. Through programmes such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), the department has been able to provide temporary work for the unemployed to carry out socially useful activities. As you would remember that the EPWP was launched in 2004, it is in its second phase charging on with its mandate of promoting economic growth and creating sustainable development.
I am pleased to announce that Phase 1 of the EPWP whose goal was to help alleviate unemployment by creating at least 1 million work opportunities, achieved this target in 2008 a year earlier than envisaged in the 2004 electoral mandate. You will also note that the EPWP programme targets at least 40% of its beneficiaries to be youth.
The second Phase of EPWP was launched in April 2009 with a goal to create two million Full Time Equivalent (FTE) jobs for poor and unemployed people in South Africa so as to contribute to halving unemployment by 2014, through the delivery of public and community services. The average duration of employments is assumed to be 100 days. This will have scaled up from 500 000 work opportunities in 2009 to 1.5 million in 2014.
Also of importance in our country is the need to address concurrent jurisdiction because this will create wider opportunities for job creation and development in all spheres of government. Phase two of EPWP has enabled all three spheres of Government to contribute enormously in the creation of decent work opportunities, skills provision and the redistribution of wealth, its impact in closing the gap created by adverse poverty and rising unemployment has not been significant enough. EPWP works because of full participation across government spheres and the non-state sector.
Other opportunities will be realised through the creation of green jobs emanating from the department’s Green Buildings Framework and responsiveness to South Africa’s newly unveiled White Paper on Climate Change. Efforts to step up the greening of State buildings are underway as part of South Africa’s mitigation strategies on the effects of global warming.
In these efforts, the department will realise the green jobs outlined in the New Growth Path through concerted collaboration with a range of stakeholders such as Organised Business, the public entities of the department and local communities using principles of the Expanded Public Works Programme.
The total number of work opportunities for youth over the period 2009/10 to 2011/12 was 974,260.
In 2007/08, the department initiated a National Youth Service Programme with the goal:
- To create work and training opportunities for the unemployed youth while addressing the shortage of artisan skills within built environment.
- Involvement of youth in community service delivery and thereby instilling the spirit of patriotism in young South Africans.
- Ensure that youth develop skills, understanding and aspirations for working within the built environment.
This initiative provides youth with a stipend of R660 per month during the 6 month training period and R1 100 per month, 6 months during on-job training. The Youth are mainly trained in a number of technical fields such as Bricklaying, Painting, Plastering, Tiling, Carpentry and Electrical. Further, the programme provides the youth with personal protective equipment and toolboxes. Although, challenges concerning the programme have been raised even here in Parliament, the programme is receiving full attention in order to make it work and achieve the intended goals.
Over the period 2011/12, the department recruited 2 000 youth from this programme compared to 802 recruited in period 2009/10.
In addition, the Provincial Departments are also implementing the National Youth Service Programmes based on the NDPW model. To date, about 4 000 youth were recruited collectively across all provinces. In order to avoid duplication of services and wasting of limited resources, the Department has partnered with the National Youth Development Agency on the National Youth Service Programme.
In an endeavour to reduce poverty and half unemployment by 2014, the department will accelerate efforts of the National Youth Service Programme to ensure that government buildings and related infrastructure continue to be maintained in a manner that will also be beneficial to the youth through the Facilities Management Programme of the Department.
The Facilities Management Programme will also see an increase the Department’s contribution to gender mainstreaming in property management through increased employment of women in the property sector. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform also has programmes such as the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) that is aimed at skills development and job creation for the youth from rural areas. These are programmes to take advantage of.
Another departmental programme that targets the youth is the Vukuphile Contractor Development Programme. This programme aims at developing labour intensive contractors and supervisors. The contractors and supervisors undergo a two year National Qualification Framework training at level 4 and are provided with contracts to execute as part of the practical component of the learner-ship.
The contracts vary from R500 000 to R3 million, per project. Of the 110 contractors and supervisors being trained, 70 are youth. Between now and March 2014, we intend to select about 390 more contractors and supervisors. Some of these programmes will need us to look at joint initiatives with other state entities such as Construction Seta.
I would like to encourage the youth to start thinking about co-operatives as alternative models for local businesses that will be both responsive to community needs as well as stimulate local economic growth.
The cooperative form of business should be an obvious choice. Cooperatives have the potential to foster economic growth at the community and regional level, building on the spirit of cooperation that is already prevalent in rural areas.
Co-operatives offer a way for a group of individuals to pool their limited resources to achieve a critical mass. Cooperatives combine people, resources, and capital into larger, more viable and economically competitive units.
As a department regulating the built environment, we are noticing that our graduates are struggling to make it into the built environment, especially when it comes to them registering with various councils. After so many years spent in school, time and resources used, one becomes an unemployed graduate. Where is fairness, where is transformation?
A research by one of the department’s entities found that race was found to be one of the major determinants of finding employment after graduation, with Africans significantly disadvantaged compared to Coloureds.
Other studies concur with these findings and add that 60% of African graduates found employment within six months of graduation which might indicate that race still has a significant impact on graduate employment prospects. This begs the question why graduates find it difficult to access areas where they are confident in and capable of delivering better services to the country. We need to work together on this situation in order to transform the built environment.
The road ahead of us is long; there are no short cuts to doing things right and there are no rights in the wrong, so to you my fellow young people, I encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunities available and when one of you happens to make a break in life, share with the others, help others and build each other. I think the message from my side is clear. I also would like to challenge my peers to support and encourage the youth in their endeavours because if we neglect them, we would have failed to produce future leaders.
As the slogan goes – “working together we can achieve so much more.”
I thank you!
Issued by: Department of Public Works
8 Jun 2012
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