Saying YES to solving SA's unemployment crisis

The Youth Employment Service has created 25,470 job opportunities since its March 2018 launch.

The Youth Employment Service (YES), which was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March 2018 in response to South Africa’s unemployment crisis, has created more than 25,000 job opportunities. 

Although YES, which is a business and government initiative, was launched in March 2018 after the president’s inauguration, it only started to operate five months later.

Speaking at the Finance Indaba on Wednesday, YES CEO Tashmia Ismail-Saville said the initiative has created 25,470 job opportunities for black youths between the ages of 18 and 35 – a cohort most affected by unemployment in South Africa. 

“At the end of the day, YES is about creating job opportunities for people who are locked out of the economy and face difficulties in getting a job. About 6.5 million young people are unemployed and spatially distant from work opportunities and nodes. They will have to travel far to get to jobs,” Tashmia said during her presentation at the Finance Indaba.  

Many of these young people only have a matric certificate and want to enter a labour market that structurally requires higher education qualifications, leaving them without gainful employment or work experience.  

With the more than 25,000 job opportunities created so far, Tashmia said the YES initiative has created a new base of taxpayers in South Africa – young people who are employed by more than 400 companies through the initiative and are paying income tax.  

“The salaries that youths are getting through YES are over R1-billion, which is going into local economies and small towns across the country, where some of the youths are from and are financially supporting their families.”

YES is part of the government’s ambition to create one million work opportunities for young people in three years, or 330,000 jobs a year.

Companies that support YES by employing young black people for at least 12 months are awarded broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) incentives including being moved up two levels on their B-BBEE scorecards and certificates. Employed youths must be paid at least the national minimum wage of R3,500 a month or R20 per hour.

Tashmia implored finance professionals attending the Finance Indaba, who usually process salary payments for the companies they work for, to employ young people. 

“The cost of not employing young people in the country is massive. It will cost the country R1.2 trillion [to give unemployment people social assistance in the form of welfare]. It will only cost companies R47 billion to employ one million people, giving them at least a minimum wage of R3,500.”