South frican President, Mr. Jacob Zuma on Thursday called on the private sector and society in Africa to join hands with governments in addressing the challenge of youth unemployment in the continent, saying that the solution to create more employment will not come from governments alone.
"This calls for all of us, government, business labour and society at large to join forces," he said at the launch of the Jobs Fair in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal.
According to the President, statistics indicate that about 42 percent of young people under the age of 30 are unemployed compared with less than 17 percent of adults over 30. Only one in eight working age adults under 25 years of age have a job compared with 40 percent in most emerging economies.
Unemployed young people tend to be less skilled and inexperienced. Almost 86 percent do not have formal further or tertiary education, while two-thirds have never worked.
Zuma said there was a need to highlight practical solutions to youth unemployment.
"We are aware we cannot solve all unemployment problems in one day. However, we trust that employers will continue to search for and afford work seekers the opportunities to access employment."
Zuma said that the Jobs Fair would enable his own government to obtain commitments from different stakeholders to contribute to job creation and economic growth.
"[The Jobs Fair] is one of the practical solutions whereby employers can walk out having found the skill they may have been looking for or vice versa."
The Jobs Fair, an initiative by the Department of Labour, targets unemployed youth who have dropped out of school, unemployed youth with school exit certificates, unemployed graduates, workers who are underemployed and retrenched workers.
It aims to empower the unemployed with soft skills, information and a face-to-face search for placement opportunities be it further learning, self-employment, co-operatives, community works or public works programmes and formal employment.
The President said the challenge of millions of out-of-school youth that cannot be absorbed in the labour market required a multi-pronged strategy and partnership to analyse and come up with appropriate solutions.
"The strategies we are putting in place in support of the youth employment include improving the overall competitiveness of the economy through boosting small and medium businesses so that they can absorb the youth," Zuma said.
Government was also expanding temporary public employment programmes. "The Expanded Public Works Programme is one such important intervention by government to support the youth."
Government has also committed to increasing the number of learnerships to 20 000 per annum in government to assist the youth to gain on-the-job experience as they fail to obtain jobs in most cases as they are told they have no experience.
"Through NEDLAC, the government signed a National Skills Accord with all the social partners in which business and state owned enterprises have made concrete, numerical commitments to significantly increase numbers of apprenticeships and to take on learners and interns for practical workplace experience," said Zuma.
Also speaking at the event was Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant. She echoed the same sentiments that there was a need for the private sector to partner with government in creating employment for the youth.
"There is no greater dignity than having a job and being able to put food on the table," she said.
She explained that the Jobs Fair was one of her department's initiative aimed at creating decent jobs for the unemployed youth. "The aim is to bring together business and young people in job creation," she said.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize said the province had a large number of unemployed youth. He called on the business sector to assist unemployed youth with jobs. "We hope to work together with the investors in addressing the challenges that we are facing in this province," he said.
According to the Department of Labour, the Jobs Fair is among a range of initiatives being rolled out within the ambit of a branch called Public Employment Services as part of the department's contribution to government service delivery outcomes.
Public Employment Services plans to register at least 600 000 work-seekers on its electronic platform called, the Employment System SA (Essa) by March 2013.
The goal is to ensure that at least 450 000 work-seekers are placed in opportunities or provided with other department services within 30 days of registration.
Also in attendance at the event were various Cabinet ministers, KwaZulu-Natal MECs and business representatives from around the country