|The Transition of Youth from School to Work: Issues and Policies (IIEP, 2000, 188 p.)|
|Chapter V. Youth and work in South Africa: issues, experiences and ideas from a young democracy by Adrienne Bird|
Over and above its legislative programme, in October 1998 the government, together with organized business, labour and community interests, convened the country's first-ever Jobs Summit. This event was preceded by months of negotiations under the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC)42. These negotiations could not resolve differences on macroeconomic or labour market policy, but parties agreed to disagree and went on to focus on a wide range of specific interventions to address job loss and job creation. In many instances the programmes discussed were not new, but were integrated into a more coherent framework supported by social agreements. Some of the measures included:
· Focus on a number of integrated provincial projects - impoverished areas with the potential for industrial or service-sector growth in which co-ordinated efforts would be taken to promote private-sector investment.
· A major initiative to promote mentorship of SME's by established business.
· Job creation schemes to be funded by government. These are to link to the preservation, reclamation or production of community assets -schemes such as 'Clean and Green Cities Campaign', 'Working for Water' (rooting out exotic trees which are using scarce water) and 'Community-Based Public Works Programmes' (such as labour-intensive construction of tertiary roads, clinics and schools).
42 NEDLAC is a quadripartite national body established by the new government to promote national stakeholder participation in governance. NEDLAC reviews labour legislation before it is tabled to parliament.
Youth were specifically targeted in the Jobs Summit. The social partners agreed to the introduction of a Youth Brigade Scheme that is to give special access to young people to the job creation schemes of government, and to incorporate life as well as vocational skills. Young people also sought special access to new jobs created in the construction of new infrastructure in integrated provincial projects. Initial projects have begun.
Significantly, both organized employers and organized trade unions rose to the challenge put by government to contribute to job creation. The employers announced a new Business Trust to be funded by a voluntary turnover contribution by their members. The Trust is to focus on the promotion of the South African tourism industry and includes a major education (primary education literacy and numeracy upgrading) and training component. The trade unions announced a new job creation fund to be resourced by a voluntary contribution of one day's pay by all their membership; 3 March, 1999 was the day on which the contributions were collected.
However, the greater challenge is to find agreement on underlying macroeconomic, industry and labour market policies. Particularly urgent for young people will be agreement on issues such as youth wages, probation periods and organized work experience within the collective bargaining realm.