by Pamela Maringa

Towards the end of 2016, Statistics South Africa released the latest unemployment figures. Sadly the figures are rather disappointing. They revealed that 27.1% of the country’s population is without employment – the highest percentage in thirteen years. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Gauteng’s Treasury Department reports that the country’s economic powerhouse will grow by only 1% this year. Africa’s economic growth is also expected to fall by up to 1.4% this year.

It’s no secret that 47% of the South African population currently earn below the R3500 monthly minimum wage. This equates to R20 per hour and can be translated into more than 25million people earning below R3500 per month.

Are business and government organisations doing enough to create an environment where there are better incentives for their employees? One of South Africa’s downfalls, when it comes to combating poverty, is the lack of entrepreneurship and new venture creation. It is easy for many to talk about entrepreneurship, but in all practicality, it’s not a priority in our country.

Our education system doesn’t enhance critical thinking and creativity. Children are encouraged to get good grades so that they can, apparently, have better job opportunities. If that is the case, why do we have millions of discouraged job seekers with degrees in our country?

Unemployment in South Africa has inspired a movement called #HireAGraduate. The movement is made up of unemployed graduates from different universities and colleges. Recently they marched to government offices and parliament in order to draw attention to their movement. The government responded to the problem by offering graduates one-year internships which, by all accounts, have limited opportunities. Graduates complain that posts advertised by both the private and government sectors require candidates to have years of experience. This is impractical for many students. How can they be expected to have such experience if they cannot secure a job when they leave their studies?

Perhaps we should start by incorporating entrepreneurial skills into our education system from an early age. We need to teach young people useful skills and techniques that will encourage problem solving from early childhood. Implementing creative programmes and empowerment workshops which encourage creativity, leadership and communication skills would begin to address the problem. Potential exists in all of us, we just need to be taught how to tap into it and access it. What better way to start tapping into that potential than in the formative years?

Being angry is not going to change the situation. We need to look for solutions to help ourselves. We need a society that recognises entrepreneurship in its many forms and how this can contribute to the growth of the economy.

The most effective way to challenge the statistics would be to create work for ourselves, instead of waiting for our government. But, the regulatory environment and red tape that’s associated with small business enterprises should be reviewed. Individually we can help our economy by being a productive and decisive generation. It would be a shame if our parent’s minimal wages and sacrifices are wasted on school fees which, in the end, amount to nothing. The fruit of their labour, and ours as students, is yet to be realised.