Ahead of Youth Day in South Africa, Ipsos, a global market research specialist, released a special focus on the youth of the country, which reveals profound distinguishing features of this age group relating to unemployment, education and rural versus urban living.
For the purposes of this survey, the 'youth' is defined as those South Africans falling into the 15- to 24-year-old age category.
“Looking at the demographics, lifestyles, attitudes and opinions of this age group gives us a good idea of what 'future South Africa' will look like,” states Mari Harris, Public Affairs Director at Ipsos South Africa.
Basic characteristics have evolved
Looking at demographics, the youth are actually a large percentage of the total adult population – 27% of the total adult population is aged between 15 and 24. This population group contains a higher percentage of males than the overall population. As one would expect, only 3% of this population group are married and 4% are living together. Ninety-three percent are single.
Looking at working status within the youth, only one in 10 of those aged between 15 and 24 are currently working full-time. The largest chunk (42%) are students. More than a third (38%) of the youth are currently unemployed and looking for work. This is significantly higher than the adult population as a whole – 30% of which are unemployed and looking for work.
“One can assume that those who describe their working status as 'looking for work' are of the right age and education level to qualify for full-time work,” states Harris. “Therefore, it is a result of fewer available jobs in the current economy that is keeping our youth from finding gainful employment. On the other hand, the youth do not necessarily have the education, training and skills needed in our economy.”
Four in 10 of those falling into the youth market report that they have completed some high school education and almost half (48%) report that they have Matric/Grade 12 as their highest level of education, which is higher than the general adult population (currently standing at 38%).
“There is a certain proportion of youth surveyed that are still too young to have completed Grade 12 yet and we would assume that this number is higher among just the 18- to 24-year-old category,” comments Harris. Four percent report having a technikon or university degree or diploma. This is compared to the total adult population, of which 9% have a degree or diploma.
Where are they situated?
The highest concentration of the youth in South Africa is in KwaZulu-Natal (22%) and Gauteng (20%), followed by the Eastern Cape (16%) and Limpopo (13%). A very large proportion – 44% - live in rural communities.
Where are they situated?
“There are significantly more youth in the rural areas than the total adult population, which indicates growing communities in these areas,” states Harris. “This highlights a great need for development within these rural areas, not only to cope with this growth, but also to create much-needed employment opportunities.”
A third (33%) live in the metropolitan areas of South Africa.
Attitudes and opinions
When asked about the running of the country and how the government is performing in this regard, the youth are divided in opinion. Just over a third (34%) are satisfied with government's performance, 33% are dissatisfied, and 30% do not have an opinion.
“This is a very even split between opinion, and presents an opportunity for political parties to gain support by improving service delivery and the perception of their performances,” comments Harris.
Interest in politics falls quite low within this population group. Almost half of the youth (47%) state they have no interest in politics or elections, with a significantly lower percentage (35%) indicating some interest.
“This is not atypical of the South African condition,” says Harris. “Interest usually peaks around election time and then fades off again until the next election campaign starts.”
Although they demonstrate a low interest in politics, there are a number of areas of concern for the youth, who evaluate the government's performance in certain areas as less than desirable. When asked whether they felt the government was performing well in certain areas, the youth were most confident that the government is performing well in the policy area of education (62%) and a third (33%) do not believe it is doing well.
On the flip side, almost two thirds (65%) do not believe the government is performing well when it comes to unemployment and creating more jobs. More than half felt it was performing well or fairly well with regards to infrastructure (54%). Just over half believe the government is performing poorly when it comes to controlling the crime rate (51%), and 38% are of the opinion that government is not doing well with regards to health services.
The youth have very definite ideas where they feel government should be focusing its efforts. Top of their wish list is more government attention to the infrastructure in South Africa – including the provision and maintenance of roads, electricity, water, sanitation and drainage. This is a priority area for 43% of the youth.
Almost a third (30%) believe there should be greater efforts in job creation and finding employment opportunities for the youth of South Africa. Next on the list is the issue of housing: a fifth (21%) believe the government should be creating opportunity for home ownership, reducing the number of shacks, building RDP housing and improving the quality of housing in the country.
Just over one in 10 (12%) believe crime needs to be addressed by the government and have concerns about policing and security issues and believe it would be beneficial to concentrate on stronger sentencing and punishment.
Education was a priority for 8% of the youth, who believe schools should be built and adequately maintained, and that bursaries and free education should be provided.
Xhead - About the survey
Personal and interactive, these in-home, face-to-face interviews are conducted in respondents' own homes by experienced face-to-face interviewers, representative of all population groups in South Africa.
* Representative sample of the adult population of South Africa
* People from all walks of life are interviewed
* 3 565 South Africans, aged 15 years and older
* 2 000 metropolitan and 1 500 non-metropolitan respondents
* The sample is split equally between genders
* Face-to-face interviews are conducted with a minimum of 20% back-check on each interviewer's work
* For this press release, the views of the youth (15- to 24-years-old) were analysed
* Results are weighted and projected to the universe (ie adults aged 15 years and older).