In conclusion, some reflections are provided on the five themes
of this round-table discussion from a South African perspective:
i. Youth at risk in developing middle-income
countries. Targeted policies for youth at risk, whether preventative or
curative, will remain marginal in a wider sea of critical unemployment.
Difficult choices have to be made about the allocation of scarce resources,
although these choices have to be situated in the context of the social cost of
not prioritizing this group.
ii. Youth training schemes are being introduced in the
South African context as a way of dealing with the extremely high incidence of
unemployment amongst school leavers. Evidence, even at this early stage,
suggests that post-qualification placement in formal or self-employment will
remain the greatest challenge. And placement is at its most severely difficult
where there is no practical work experience.
iii. Training for the informal sector is a
relatively new area for South Africans and there is a great need to further
explore it. However, even at this early stage, the current experience seems to
be in line with lessons elsewhere, that this training:
to be rooted into the social context and productive networks of the learners and
· Needs to be linked to other
interventions such as credit assistance and marketing and technology advice. The
most successful examples have been linked to 'hives' where integrated support
has been provided.
Even at the survivalist end of the spectrum, success
has been achieved when additional services, such as bulk-buying arrangements,
are in place.
However, failure rates across the board remain high
and reasons need to be analyzed more carefully. It is, furthermore, a concern
that there is evidence of displacement of formal for informal-sector activity.
iv. Links to work: the South African formal
apprenticeship system has failed to rise to the challenge of providing a bridge
for young people to enter the labour market.
The newly proposed 'learnership' system is an attempt to remedy
this problem. It provides for structured learning and work experience and
culminates in an occupational qualification. Recent experience suggests that
this framework is promising, but extensive support is still needed to bridge
from the learnership to placement and self-employment. In addition, firms
require real financial incentives to participate in the scheme. It is hoped that
the levy-grant scheme will help to provide these incentives and encourage firms
to both provide opportunities for work experience and then facilitate
There is, at present, a problem on the side of
training providers, and it is expected that the programmes of the Department of
Education will enhance the capacity of providers to support learnerships in a
more flexible way.
v. Partnership frameworks. South Africa certainly enjoys
a very dense institutional environment. It is also a new environment - so it is
too early for evaluation. However, the South African Government, led by the
Ministers of Labour and Education and the Office of the Deputy President, is
taking measures to ensure that the various interventions add up to a coherent
people-development strategy at the end of the day.
But a coherent people-development strategy only makes sense if
it can complement and strengthen a broader growth and development strategy.
Building a skill base responsive to existing demand is one challenge, but laying
the basis for new demand is even more vital in a society like South Africa,
where there is simply inadequate demand at the moment. And if the South African
economy is to rise above the status of a commodity-exporting nation, it needs to
aim at greater value adding across the spectrum of survival, micro-enterprises,
import-competing and exporting firms. These niches are, after all,
interconnected components of the economy, not islands, as the women and children
scouring for paper on the streets of Durban understand only too