Prof Lauren Graham presents at Youth Unemployment Imbizo

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Prof Lauren Graham presented as a panellist at the Youth Unemployment Imbizo hosted by Economic Development and Wellbeing Research Group (EDWRG) on 12 April. The Imbizo tackled the serious problem of unemployment and youth unemployment in South Africa. Currently youth unemployment sits at 65%, the Imbizo sought to detail the causes for this and find possible solutions.

Prof Graham’s presentation focused  on youth experiences of unemployment and took a social welfare policy approach to begin understanding this complex issue with a presentation titled: The long and winding road to learning and earning – youth experiences.

Her presentation highlighted that young people are not just work-seekers, they are facing the transition from learning to earning alongside multiple forms of deprivation in their lives. Typically, young people who are struggling with the transition are coming from income-poor households that are faced with a number of other challenges including housing insecurity, food insecurity, lack of affordable and reliable transport, limited access to productive social networks, and low-quality schooling, poor health and safety concerns.


*Information obtained through interviews and focus group data with young people across many different communities in South Africa through the CSDA.



She shared two vignettes of young people on this journey, which are characteristic of many stories from young people. Young people face multiple forms of social exclusion that are not just about their earning and learning trajectory, but also the other responsibilities that they have and the other services that they need but struggle to access. The churn in the labour market also means that jobs typically don’t stick. All of these factors impact significantly on young people’s well-being and mental health, which then leads to further social drift and feeling further excluded.

In spite of the multiple adversities facing them and their families, young people continue to demonstrate significant agency; they are trying multiple things to access jobs and training opportunities. This resilience is often underappreciated.

These experiences tell us that:

  • Young people demonstrate resilience and agency in the face of a system that does not serve them, with very little if any support and guidance.
  • Young people experience services as being alienating, exclusionary and intimidating.
  • Many services and programmes exist to support post-school transitions, but young people often don’t know about them, don’t know that they are eligible or do not know how to apply for them.
  • Some service barriers arise out of a lack of understanding of the multiple deprivations that young people face.
  • Young people individualise their experience of barriers to inclusion. They blame themselves and their families which has implications for their mental health and family dynamics.
  • Significant amount of churn in the labour market and in training programmes owing to high implementation costs and high financial and non-financial costs for individuals and their families.

The full recording of the Imbizo can be found here[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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