The South African Child Gauge 2015: Youth – an opportunity to interrupt the intergenerational transmission of poverty

CaptureThe 10th issue of the South African Child Gauge, focusing on the theme of youth and the intergenerational transmission of poverty, was released last week on the 10th of November [2015] by the University of Cape Town’s Children’s Institute.  It examines the situation of young people aged 15 – 24 and highlights the need for a range of interventions that continue to support children as they transition into the crucial developmental stages of adolescence and young adulthood.  

The following outline of key findings are based on excerpts from the press release (you can download the full report here):

South Africa has a large youth population and at the moment the majority of them remain trapped in the continuing inequalities created by apartheid.  Approximately 59% of youth aged 15 – 24 years live in households with less than R620 per person per month, and many of them experience multiple forms of deprivation such as limited access to quality education, health care, housing and high levels of unemployment. Poor youth also lack the beneficial kinds of social networks and information needed to access post-school education and the labour market.

The study found that “there is an urgent need for a comprehensive approach to supporting youth as they transition into adulthood. This includes addressing structural barriers that undermine young people’s development and ultimately the country’s growth trajectory. An intersectoral approach is needed and it is therefore essential to establish a central coordinating body with the authority to steer implementation of the government’s new youth policy and hold other departments accountable”.

Specifically the publication:

  • spells out very clearly the critical link between quality education and entrance to the labour market and warns that without access to quality education the public school system in essence becomes a poverty trap because poor youth start with a disadvantage, remain behind and are unlikely to proceed to further education.  It recommends that the quality of education must be improved, starting in the foundation phase; current learning deficits in high school need to be tackled; and drop-out rates reduced through comprehensive support to learners and their families;
  • notes that access to information on further education and career options, as well as financial support, is critical to enable young people to access further and higher education. Only 8% of youth aged 18 – 24 years attend college or university. Notwithstanding the ongoing evaluation of fees, first-year university tuition can be as high as R65 000 per year, and drop-out rates remain worrying. Financial aid, accommodation, transport, study support, psycho-social and health care services are essential, as is a welcoming institutional culture that enables students to stay the course until they graduate. It is recommended that greater investment is made in the college sector to expand access to technical and vocational education and training, as well as linking up colleges with employers to establish clear learning and employment pathways for students;
  • sketches a concerning picture for youth’s current job prospects: In 2015, 37% of those aged 15 – 34 find themselves unemployed, up from 33% in 2008. This rate increases to 45% if discouraged work-seekers are included in calculations. In the long term the job market must produce more jobs and absorb more unskilled labour, and the education system produces job-seekers with the necessary skills”, but in the interim measures are needed to enhance young people’s employability. These include learnerships and skills programmes to increase young people’s employability, encouraging businesses to increase their demand for youth employees, and supporting youth to access the labour market and develop sustainable livelihood strategies;
  • points out that poverty, inequality and gender dynamics are intertwined causes of ill health among adolescents, which is why there is a call for an integrated and multi-pronged approach to promote youth health and well-being;
  • mentions that South Africa’s rate of teenage child-bearing has been declining steadily over the past two decades. But, teen pregnancy does still occur and has significant, negative consequences for both the young mother and the child’s well-being. We should not only work to prevent pregnancy among schoolgirls, but also to support teen mothers to finish their education;
  • also outlines youth mobility and migration, and youth identity and belonging as critical areas for support. City planners need to consider the needs of youth by making available affordable transport, housing and safe recreational spaces. Improved digital access can also go a long way to help young people gain access to information, education or job opportunities. Such resources, opportunities and other support measures can help enhance youth engagement and belonging.

 The Gauge has generated substantial media coverage and public reflection.  Following are links to articles and clips:


While the rich get education, SA’s poor get just ‘schooling’
Sunday Times, 08/11/2015

Over 50% of youth jobless
The Times, 10/11/2015

SA kids are poor even before they leave the womb
The Times, 10/11/2015

Wanted: effective policies to put an end to deprivation
The Business Day, 10/11/2015

SA kids: the good news and the bad
The Star/IOL News, 10/11/2015

The chance of our birth
Health-e, 10/11/2015


SABC digital news channel



Poverty shock for SA children
SABC News online, 11/11/2015

Inzingane zakuleli ziqala ukunkhlupheka zingakazalwa
Inzidaba24, 10/11/2015

Report reveals that more than half of all young South Africans live in poverty
The South African


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