The aim of the programme is to provide young people (aged 15 to 24) who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) with support to increase their life chances.
The Basic Package of Support could be a gamechanger for unemployed youth in disadvantaged areas like Bonteheuwel in Cape Town.
Young people’s lives in South Africa are marked by multiple vulnerabilities. Some of the challenges they face include income poverty, low educational outcomes, poor housing and unreliable or expensive transport options, poor physical and mental health, limited social networks and restricted access to the social grant system1De Lannoy A, Swartz S, Lake L & Smith C (eds) (2015) South African Child Gauge 2015. Cape Town: Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town.
At least 40% of all young people leave school before completing matric2Zero-Dropout Campaign. (2020), School Dropout: The Pandemic Edition, Cape Town: DGMT; they enter the labour market without the necessary educational credentials and skills, and are often ill-equipped to navigate the complex social structures that determine access to employment. This transition also takes place at a time when young people no longer qualify for the social protection they accessed when they were younger than 18 – such as the Child Support Grant, or support services available at schools.
Many fall out of social and economic systems entirely and become invisible. Described as ‘NEET’, they are not in education, employment or training. Young people that are considered NEET are at risk of longer-term economic and social exclusion3Approximately 32% of young people between the ages of 15 to 24 are NEET in South Africa. More African and Coloured youth are NEET than White youth, and the proportion NEET is higher among females than males. Analysis of Community Survey data, QLFS data and, more recently, of National Income Dynamics Study data shows that the proportion of NEET increases as youth grow older. While there is some churn in the “NEET-state” – in other words, not everyone who is NEET at some point in time, remains NEET for the rest of their lives – significant proportions do remain NEET until later ages. (Branson et al. 2019) .
With over 3 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 that are NEET4Statistics South Africa. (2019). Quarterly Labour Force Survey Quarter 2: 2019. Retrieved from statssa.gov.za, responding to their challenges in a holistic and inclusive way is a matter of urgency.
The majority of South Africans are stuck in an inequality trap with wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. Most are stuck in intergenerational loops of exclusion with few chances to escape. Breaking this cycle requires a fundamental change in life trajectories, starting in the womb.
Think of a Möbius strip – just one twist in the circle allows you to trace a completely different pattern. Instead of being stuck on the inside of a loop, you emerge on the outside. In the same way, escaping the inequality trap requires a fundamental twist to set South Africa on a new path.
A multi-stakeholder consortium led by the Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) has been working since 2019 to design a Basic Package of Support (BPS) for young people that are NEET in South Africa.
The BPS offers a unique response to youth unemployment because it offers targeted, individual, ongoing support to young people that are NEET, while simultaneously supporting community service providers to improve their response to the youth unemployment crisis.
The design of the BPS draws inspiration from the European Youth Guarantee (YG), which was designed in urgent and radical response to youth unemployment in Europe, and is adapted to fit the South African context.
The European Youth Guarantee is a commitment by all European Union member states to ensure that young people under the age of 25 receive a good quality offer of employment; continued education; apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.
More than 5 million young people have registered in YG schemes each year since 20145Read more about the European Youth Guarantee. Other countries outside of Europe investigating or implementing similar models include New Zealand, South Korea and Morocco6
New Zealand is offering a Youth Guarantee that facilitates pathways into further education and training or employment.
South Korea is offering a 2020 Seoul Youth Guarantee which focuses on facilitating a youth allowance, jobs, housing, and facilities.
The Moroccan National Agency for Promotion of Employment and Skills (ANAPEC) launched Vision 2020 to better support young graduates, especially those in long-term unemployment, and expand the initiative to women and non-graduates. ANAPEC has also launched three programmes focusing on wage subsidies for unemployed graduates; youth training and entrepreneurship promotion through training and financial assistance.
DGMT led multiple engagements with a number of civil society organisations working with young people that are NEET to design the tools and processes needed for the Basic Package of Support. A civil society reference group was established comprising 19 organisations and a total of four reference group sessions were convened to support the design process. The expertise and experience shared by civil society partners during these sessions have directed the design of BPS tools and processes.
The Basic Package of Support has been in a pilot phase since 2020. There are five pilot sites in three different provinces; one in the Western Cape, three in Gauteng and one in KwaZulu-Natal. The emergent findings show that the programme is providing young people with an imminent sense of hope and possibility, and in this hope, young people feel motivated to move into pathways to productivity.
A number of young people have also been connected to earning and learning opportunities through the BPS, as well as to much-needed services in their communities. We have seen that the community service-strengthening component of the programme has local referral processes for youth, demonstrating the value of local-level, collective problem-solving to improve young people’s access to critical services.
Watch these videos to find out more about what South African youth face during the transition from education to employment.
Hear from both young South Africans and stakeholders involved in the project in the videos below
Trying to change life trajectories is ambitious and profound. It requires us to radically influence the lives of individuals and to be part of changing the circumstances in which they live.