The Minister said this when he addressed the Accelerating Inclusive Youth Employment conference in Stellenbosch on Monday on behalf of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The conference was hosted by National Planning Commission, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, Yellowwoods Investments, and MISTRA.
He said while youth unemployment remains a global challenge, it has a particular significance for sustainable development on the African continent, where the majority of citizens are young people.
“Youth unemployment in South Africa is particularly severe. Where jobs are available, young people from disadvantaged communities struggle to access them. The jobs are often short-term and insecure.
“Youth unemployment is probably the single most critical challenge facing South Africa today,” said Minister Nxesi, adding that the most pressing national task is therefore to work with urgency and focus to bring significant numbers of young people into the workplace.
He said as government undertakes this important work, attention must be paid to the kind of leadership that is provided from all sectors to improve the prospects of the youth.
“If we embrace their dreams and aspirations, if we act now to address their needs, if we demonstrate that we are worthy of their confidence, we will be setting our nation on a new course.”
The Minister said young people protesting against an unaffordable education system should not be treated as other people’s problems.
“These are young people who are rebelling against the social exclusion, victimisation and stigmatisation. Just as we rebelled against the evils of racial exclusion and indignity, they are rebelling against the evils of equality, marginalisation and unemployment.
“Our conscience must compel us to act decisively when young people resort to extreme methods in their efforts to make us listen to them.
“We cannot be comfortable when young people express their frustration and anger by destroying community assets. This is the time for action. It is the time to redouble our efforts,” he said.
Young people growing impatient
The Minister said young people are growing impatient of the narrative of economic growth first and jobs later.
He said youth unemployment in South Africa is severe and that where jobs are available, young people from disadvantaged communities struggle to access them.
The jobs are often short-term and insecure, the Minister said.
“[Young people] want employment and business opportunities today because they believe correctly that they are the real force that can drive the shared economic growth.
“These are young, bright and capable people who are convinced that South Africa has enough to share equitably amongst all South Africans.
“They are convinced that working together can enable them to reach the pinnacle of their potential,” he said.
Young people believed that the current challenges call for revolutionary ideas to be implemented in order to make human dignity a defining feature of the society.
“This is a generation that wants action, not mere policies and vision statements.
“That is why this conference is important. It is practical, it is focussed on solutions and we expect it to have tangible outcomes,” he said.
Innovative responses to deal with youth unemployment
The Minister said government has responded innovatively to tackling youth unemployment.
Government has forged partnerships to deal with low growth and to create jobs.
“By bridging together intellectual social and financial capital of these economic sectors, we have been able to develop innovative responses to several of these challenges,” he said.
This includes the proposed Youth Employment Service, which aims to place a million young people in a paid one-year internship in the private sector in the next three years.
Another fund for small business development has already raised around R1.5 billion from some of the country’s top companies for investment in the small business sector.
This compliments some of the existing measures, like the Jobs Fund and the Employment Tax Incentive, which are contributing to job creation especially for the young job seekers who lack experience.
He said through initiatives like the adopt a TVET college programme, established by the Human Resource Development Council, government is seeking to involve the private sector in improving the functioning, resourcing and relevance of colleges.
“One of the objectives of this programme is to ensure that the training that young people receive adequately prepares them for the workplace.”