South Africa’s lockdown restrictions are easing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but its impact on the economy will be long-lasting and challenging, and it remains an important time for business, government, educators, nongovernment organisations and other stakeholders to uplift the development of the country’s youth, says professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
PwC Southern Africa CEO Shirley Machaba says that because young people are particularly susceptible to the socioeconomic ramifications of the pandemic, now is a critical juncture for business, educators, government and other stakeholders to reflect on the consequences of the pandemic and consider bolstering efforts and initiatives to find ways to help young people.
June is celebrated as Youth Month in South Africa and focuses on June 16 – Youth Day. This year, the theme for Youth Month is ‘Youth Power – Growing South Africa together in the Period of Covid-19’.
PwC points out that the theme highlights the role that young people can play in the revival of South Africa’s economy during the Covid-19 pandemic.
PwC Strategy & Africa chief economist Lullu Krugel says the country's youth unemployment is both an individual tragedy, as well as a community and socioeconomic one.
“Unemployment and poverty are linked inextricably as income from wages account for nearly three-quarters of South Africans’ income.” She adds that youths carry a particularly heavy burden – an estimated 8.2-million (40.1%) of South Africans aged 15 to 24 years were unemployed in the last quarter of 2019, just before the current economic downturn.
“Unemployment and job insecurity, and in some instances fallout from education, will impact the economy for many years to come,” says Krugel, adding that solving South Arica’s youth unemployment rate will take a long-term and multi-concerted effort by all stakeholders.
According to global research, PwC points out, the quality of South Africa’s education system is considerably lower than that of its global counterparts, suggesting that learners are not adequately equipped to meet the requirements for today’s workplace.
This is further corroborated by business leaders’ concerns about the difficulty of finding skilled workers for their businesses.
According to PwC’s twenty-third yearly Global CEO Survey 2020, the shortage of key skills remains a top concern for CEOs with only 6% of South African business leaders saying they have made “significant progress” in establishing an upskilling programme.
PwC states that without any work experience or upskilling of young people, many will not be absorbed into the economy and workplace. While fighting current levels of youth unemployment as a matter of urgency, the firm notes that South Africa must also build a pipeline of future talent that can actively take part in the age of automation and digital technology.
Further, PwC highlights that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought about new business models and new ways of working that require technical, digital and soft skills.
In this regard, the firm has launched several initiatives for young people to enter its organisation, including internships, mentorships, coaching and bursaries. In line with its purpose, PwC has invested in several initiatives to nurture future business leaders, such as its ‘Foundation for the Future’ programme.
This initiative exposes talented young graduates to various operational disciplines within the advisory line of service and provides them with opportunities to be mentored by directors and senior managers.
In June, PwC will also launch a series of virtual platforms to connect and engage in meaningful dialogue with young people to assist them in solving important problems and navigate the ‘new normal’.
The firm will also be looking at the impact that the youth have brought to PwC.
“This is the time for all stakeholders to work together to uplift the development of our young people,” says Machaba, adding that only through large-scale interactive participation, can the voice of South Africa’s young people be heard and become truly representative in civil society.