May 10, 2024

Our youth and their employment. It’s vital for our future.
A look at governmental youth employment programmes.  

In the 2024 State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the socio-economic crisis faced by the youth of South Africa by stating: “Unemployment among young South Africans is a national crisis that demands urgent, innovative, and co-ordinated solutions. It is therefore essential that we implement a comprehensive plan to create no fewer than 2 million jobs for young people within the next decade”. 

According to Statistics South Africa, the official unemployment rate for the last quarter of 2023 was 32,1%. Of this 32,1%, 44% represents the youth (up to 35 years of age). This confirms that unemployment among the youth is still a persisting issue in South Africa. In response, the government has implemented various employment programmes in order to provide opportunities for the youth. This article will discuss these initiatives and their impact on young South Africans.

Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (“PYEI”)

The PYEI is intended to transition young people successfully from the learning environment to the working environment. This initiative is a combination of numerous government institutions and social partners aimed at delivering more opportunities for young people. 

One of its objectives is to address constraints on job creation on both the supply and demand side by maximising the allocation of resources. Different government departments are responsible for the implementation of this programme. An example is in the Department of Basic Education where youth are provided with opportunities and placed in public schools as Education Assistants and General School Assistants. 

The PYEI receives its funding from the National Treasury, this includes dedicated funding for innovative approaches in key PYEI initiatives. The PYEI improves the alignment of sustainably funded activities across departments (such as those for skills development) to achieve more with existing resources. The PYEI seeks to co-ordinate, accelerate and enhance existing programmes while driving innovation and creating pathways to earning for young people at scale.

Presidential Employment Stimulus (“PES”). 

This programme was initially implemented as part of the economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it continues to be implemented during the ongoing crisis of unemployment. 

PES provides funding for several PYEI initiatives and directly delivers employment opportunities for youth. It provides targeted support to certain vulnerable livelihoods, such as Early Childhood Development practitioners, youth enterprises and small-scale farmers. Funding is allocated to different sectors for both the protection of jobs and to support practitioners.

National Youth Development Agency (“NYDA”)

The NYDA was established to address the challenges faced by the youth of South Africa. It derives its mandate from the legislative frameworks, including the National Youth Development Agency Act 54 of 2008, the National Development Plan 2030, the National Youth Policy 2030 and the approved Integrated Youth Development Strategy.

The NYDA's mandate is to develop and implement an Integrated Youth Development Strategy for South Africa and initiate, design, co-ordinate, evaluate and monitor all programmes that aim to integrate the youth into the economy and society. The programmes are aimed at alleviating poverty, combating crime and substance abuse, as well as addressing social decay among youth. 

Apart from the initiatives set out by NYDA, there are various other opportunities for youth development, either in the private sector or public sector. For example, the government provides for bursaries, internships and learnerships as part of youth development. More details on possible initiatives can be found at 

Youth Employment Service (“YES”) programme

The YES programme was established to assist with addressing the country's youth unemployment rate by empowering businesses to create jobs for unemployed youth. It facilitates partnerships between businesses and young job seekers offering internships, learnerships and entry-level positions to help bridge the gap between education and employment.

It allows for unemployed youth to obtain up to 12 months of work experience with companies in the private sector that are registered with this programme. 

For more information on the YES programme and how to either get involved or make use of the initiative, the following contact details can be used:


>     Website:


>     Telephone: 087 330 0084


>     E-mail: or


Impact and challenges

The government has created and implemented various youth unemployment programmes that have made significant strides in addressing the youth unemployment crisis, as well as empowering young people in South Africa. By providing job opportunities, skills development and support services, these programmes have assisted thousands of young people to gain the necessary training and opportunities to enter the workforce. Young people are able to build a brighter future for themselves and generations to come.

Although the programmes have helped many young people, unemployment rates among the youth still persist. This is an indication that more comprehensive and sustainable solutions need to be in place to combat the high unemployment rates in South Africa.

Issues such as discrepancies between education and the working environment demand, limited access to opportunities in rural areas, a lack of support for youth entrepreneurship and inadequate funding continue to hinder progress. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities and intensified the challenges faced by young job seekers.

However, the programmes referred to above are aimed at equipping young people with the necessary skills and opportunities needed to enter the workforce. They include a wide range of skills development, job placement, mentorship and entrepreneurship support. The programmes go a long way in addressing the socio-economic issues of young people in South Africa. 

These are only a few initiatives that have been established to counter youth unemployment. More initiatives are consistently being developed and implemented in order to combat youth unemployment.

Did you know… Many of South Africa's largest private companies are registered with the YES programme and provide internships and learnerships for the unemployed youth of South Africa.