Despite the slow-down in the recovery of global economic systems, which has aggravated job crises in many countries around the world, South African youth remain optimistic about their prospects of finding a job in the country, an annual youth survey conducted by the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) reveals.

The findings show that the so-called Mandela generation is extremely aware of what is happening around them and very positive about their future career prospects: 84% of the nearly 2 300 grade 11 and 12 learners surveyed believe that South Africa has a bright future and they are ready to tackle it with all its challenges.

The survey results clearly show a different perspective on the perceptions of South African youth. The survey asked the learners to rate a number of probing questions about themselves and the country on a scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. Some highlights included the following:

  • Learners are not convinced that racism is still a major problem in South Africa, with 86% believing that South Africa has improved since the end of apartheid. Bearing in mind that these young people grew up in an integrated South Africa, 88% of learners believe that diversity is one of our strengths. This generation is writing a new story for South Africa.
  • Despite negative perceptions about the country’s education system, an overwhelming 90% believe that the education they receive is preparing them adequately to tackle future challenges and access careers in the global village. Although 72% of learners can see themselves emigrating, 76% believe they will have a better career in South Africa than elsewhere in the world. Less than 50% believe they will not be able to find employment if they remained in South Africa.
  • Of the learners surveyed, 82% believed that in 2014, black South Africans have the same opportunities that white South Africans had in the past.

Phyllis Byars, associate director at the Centre for Leadership and Dialogue at GIBS, said, “We use the GIBS CareerExpo as a platform to engage youth in self-exploration to help them identify their interests, which we believe is a critical step in the career development process for all young people. The annual youth survey is always an eye-opener; it is so encouraging to see how driven and hungry today’s youth are. It is clear that they are not carrying the weight of the past into the future with them and are carving their own paths towards a prosperous future.

“The survey results provide ‘food for thought’ for our current leaders,” adds Byars. “Serious measures have to be implemented in order to meet the demands of these youth who are on their way to form part of the workforce in less than five years from now. Key stakeholders need to implement programmes like those outlined in the National Development Plan’s vision 2030, [which] envisages an economy that serves the needs of all South Africans, an economy in full employment; people equipped with needed skills … and resources to pay for investment in human and physical capital, among other things.”