A study using national labour force statistics shows South Africa’s youth still experience extraordinary levels of unemployment despite a high level of secondary school completion.

The study was done by three academic staff members - Professor Imraan Valodia, Dr Michael Rogan and Ms Kathleen Diga - within the Discipline of Development Studies, School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS).

It was titled: “Labour Market Analysis and Business Process Services for South Africa: Poverty Reduction through Information and Digital Employment Initiative”.

According to the researchers, Business Process Services (BPS) in South Africa may have a role in providing digital employment in the services sector. Innovative programmes such as the government-funded Monyetla Youth Training Initiative continue to grow after the first round of BPS-trained graduates becoming absorbed into the sector.

‘Yet the small number of BPS companies (both local and international) will need to expand in the country alongside relevant training programmes in order to complement the growth of ICT usage and high school graduates. Such complementary elements would need to work together in order to meet the required talent pool for South Africa’s success in tackling youth employment,’ explained Valodia.

Asked about the implications of BPS and youth labour, Rogan explained: ‘One factor which can play an important role in shifting overseas BPS to South Africa is whether local suppliers of BPS have the capacity to deliver; especially with respect to human resources capabilities.’

‘While statistics show some secondary school education, strong English competence and computer literacy among young people, there are still some questions about whether young unemployed South Africans have the requisite skills to be successful BPS employees should the sector expand.’

Concerning absorbing unemployed youth, Diga says, the data does suggest some interesting possibilities. ‘There is evidence which demonstrates, for example, that unemployed young people have some digital skills which may make them more attractive to BPS firms than the broader unemployed population as a whole.

‘Nevertheless, new younger workers who tend to have far less work experience than the older cohorts of the unemployed may compete with older labour participants with work experience for jobs in the BPS sector. Therefore, strategies to promote BPS and Impact Sourcing have to carefully consider how best to ensure the targeted population is given opportunities for decent work,’ she said.

The research project was a collaborative partnership between UKZN, the University of Nairobi and the University of Ghana’s Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research. This research brief is based upon research supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and administered by UKZN.

The Research Briefs and forthcoming country reports are online at:,12,125,4,0

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