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Deprivation among unemployed South African youth: Intergenerational or transitional?

D Booysen
A van Eeden


The troika of poverty, unemployment and inequality are hallmarks of the South African socio-economic landscape. With approximately one out of every four young people between the ages of 15 and 35 being employed, unemployment is a fact of life experienced by the majority of South African youth. This study sets out to explore this phenomenon, particularly whether the factors giving rise to youth unemployment are transitory or  intergenerational in nature. The study is based on a sample of 3.236 unemployed youths originating from four provinces together with data extracted from a dedicated poverty survey conducted by Statistics South Africa from 2008 to 2009. Instead of focusing on the rather narrow income-poverty viewpoint, the study follows a multidimensional approach, using a range of social and material deprivati on indicators to measure poverty. Results show that only transitory factors are significant in explaining
the prevalence of deprivation among unemployed youths, suggesting that their poverty is temporary in nature. Of particular significance is the fact that provinces with quite disparate conventional poverty profiles displayed rather similar results in their range of material and social deprivations. In addition, the more prosperous provinces such as Gauteng performed worse than poorer provinces such as Limpopo and Eastern Cape. This research contributes to the National Development Plan vision for 2030, which recognises the issues of social security and supports an understanding of a minimum level of social protection. Among the study’s many  recommendations is that certain components of the survey instruments be improved, that the role of households in mitigating against the ravages of poverty among the young be appreciated, and that state intervention to alleviate youth poverty be emphasised.