When Lerato Moleleki completed her public relations diploma two years ago, she thought she was going to walk into a job and realise her dreams of being independent.
But two years on, the 23-year-old from Randburg, Johannesburg finds herself faced with the frustration afflicting thousands of graduates who find themselves without a job.
This week Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) painted a gloomy picture for graduates like Moleleki with revelations that although the country’s working-age population increased by 149,000 in the first quarter of this year compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, the labour force decreased by 176,000.
The authority said the official unemployment rate increased by 0,5 of a percentage point to 27,6% compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.
“The increase in the unemployment rate is a result of a decline of 237,000 in the number of people in employment and an increase of 62,000 in the number of people who were unemployed between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019.”
Even more worrying, Stats SA revealed that youth between the ages of 15 and 24 were the most affected by unemployment.
“Between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, the percentage of young persons aged 15–24 years who were not in employment, education or training (NEET) increased by 2,1 percentage points to 33,2% (3,4-million). Of the 20,3 million young people aged 15-34 years, 40, 7% were not in employment, education or training (NEET) – an increase by 1,8 percentage points compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.”
The survey further shows that the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by a whopping 156,000. This, added to the other not economically active population of 169,000 results in a net increase of 325,000 in the number of those who were not economically active.
Moleleki who resides in Randburg says being trapped in the cycle of unemployment is “very stressful especially having to be dependent on others”.
“It’s even more frustrating when you apply for a job and do not get feedback in terms of your application,” she says.
She has even found herself, like many graduates in her position, having to take up just about any job that comes her way in order to survive.
After applying for a job several times without any success, in April last year she worked at a call centre as a stand-by for a mere eight months. During the December festive season she worked in a retail store.
“It was not exciting working there because the pressure to reach the target every day by finding a client was enormous. Also, the job was commission based, meaning if I do not find clients for the company, I do not get paid,” she says.
For Moleleki not to succumb to depression like many unemployed youths, she does part-time promotions and at the same time applies for any vacancies that might be available, always hoping for the best.
Government’s unrealistic comments
Although Stats SA revealed that the graduate unemployment rate is still lower than the rate among those with educational levels, it is cold comfort for people like 25-year-old Phathutshedzo Rasilingwani.
“Education is not the key to success. Definitely not in South Africa,” says the unemployed journalism graduate.
“The government should stop saying unrealistic things like ‘the youth have the obligation to start businesses’ because the same people who are uttering such a statement have been working in the government for more than 20 years. Instead, why don’t they start their own businesses since they have the capital?” she asks.
Last year president Cyril Ramaphosa told the Presidential Jobs Summit that concrete agreements between organised labour, business, community and government were being implemented by social partners with the aim to create 275,000 additional direct jobs every year. He repeated this promise during his State Of the Nation Address.
“We have come up with great plans, platforms and initiatives through which we continue to draw young people in far greater numbers into productive economic activity through initiatives like the Employment Tax Incentive. This incentive will be extended for another 10 years,” Ramaphosa said.
But for those living the unemployment experience like Rasilingwani, these are just words that ring hollow.
Rasilingwani, who is from Lwamondo in Limpopo, completed her BA in Media Studies at the University of Venda in 2015 and in 2016, she subsequently registered for BA Honours in Journalism with the University of Johannesburg.
In 2017, she had the opportunity to intern at one of the media houses in the country and unfortunately, when the internship ended, she could not find a job.
“Unemployment makes me sad and triggers a lot of frustrations most of the time. Though I keep myself busy with freelance work, it can’t be compared to having a permanent job where you are certain that there is a fixed salary at the end of the month that will be coming through,” said Rasilingwani.
She further says the government should stop the principle of giving the citizens free stuff rather they should give jobs to the youth.