The commodification of youth unemployment

By Action Setaka

In many platforms where I am invited to speak on socio-economic issues, I always argue that we live in a money-orientated world. “Our poverty, miseries, traumas and even simple acts of kindness are converted into business for making money. If plans to make money are not found out of any of our problems. Those problems hardly receive solutions until the plan is made on how to make money out of them,” therefore today I argue that commodification of unemployment is real and it is the foundation of catastrophic conditions we live in.

The fact of meeting in fancy places to discuss matters affecting people living in destitution has its own connotations. But as a person with absent character and energy to complain, my excitement lies with the fact that we are all willing to do something about it and accommodate all voices on this issue of unemployment. Unemployment is one thing which must be prioritised by all organisations and government departments as it is the root cause of challenges we are facing. To be precise, unemployment is the reason why we have crime, corruption, xenophobia, afrobobia, and many other issues. It is a threat to the universal right to life therefore a caring government and private sector must join hands in defeating this scourge.

I have different angles to qualify my assertion of believing that unemployment is being commodified. I will start with basic circumstances which commodify unemployment. The fact that you need copies of numerous CVs and Z83 forms to send to prospective employers is money which benefits those running internet cafes and it remains a wonder why government still uses such an old and expensive method to recruit. To attend interviews you must always look “professional” to impress prospective employers, including in your everyday life, as you won’t know when you will meet your saviour. These interviews and life are expensive to maintain. Postage and transport to go to different locations to market yourself are very expensive. Data to browse for jobs and opportunities is costly and mobile networks are arrogantly making money out of this. Anything which has to deal with searching for employment requires money yet you find confident and unscientific claims from some in our country blaming our people for laziness.

As if it’s not enough, the Department of Health Minister, the progressive and hands on Aron Motsoaledi is on a mission to introduce sugar tax, he is so passionate, I envision him vowing for fat tax in near future which will make certain foods unaffordable, this is done in an innocent and noble plan to control the diet of our people so that we don’t become an obese and an unhealthy nation. What Dr Motswaledi fails to recognise is that our people will eat anything edible for human consumption which is affordable. If our people were working, his wonderful vision of healthy living was going to be easily attainable. Employ young people, pay them well so that they are able to have a healthy dietetic choice of food. So instead of rushing to introduce sugar tax, perhaps radical employment creation must be what he lobbies for positions of influence the minister serves in.


Agencies charge clients rates that includes provisions for statutory deductions in their salaries. They are gateways to super exploitation of our people. Their interest is just to make money. The only thing a person gets from their links is debt. These agencies are often used by the private sector to avoid fair labour practices. They are in the same category with EPWP piece jobs. The fact that it acts as though it puts bread on the table cannot justify the insult it is,  it’s just an illusion that it puts bread on the table what it does quite correctly do is to put young people in indebtedness and excessive exploitation, same with these agencies.


The SETAs funding to businesses to host learnerships and internships is not used well because corporates use this funding as a money making scheme but they fail to fully fulfill expectations. They use it as a “quickie” process so that they finish and get other funding to host others. They are not interested in empowering young people that is why the learnerships and internships still don’t have a clear exit strategy from the business side. My view is that the prerequisite of SETA funding should be permanent employment for learners after training so that if they fail to adequately transfer skills, they nicely suffer from their own creation in production. Government can’t be providing so much money for training of young people and they go back to streets.

Bribes naturalisation

Money to bribe or potential to grow brands regardless of capacities. Bribing is now a naturalised hiring fee because people saw a business opportunity in unemployment. If you don’t have anyone working in the family who can pay officials for you to get employed, prospects are that your chances of not working in your life will be permanent. The least you could do is to be related to those with powers to employ.

How commodification of employment causes problems:

  1. You will have a country where everyone is a politician, leading a country to be directionless. Anyone who is jobless or in need of a government opportunity joins politics so that they can be in close proximity with state resources for narrow selfish interests. People with capacity to implement the country’s progressive policies gets snubbed in favour of politicians. If you are able to make a loud illogical argument using political colloquialism, you see yourself as the best politician and possible government officials


  1. A talentless nation where populism is everything. When you are popular everything comes your way, talented emerging stars are ignored and few measures are in place to nurture their talents. Those who are popular/celebrities also do almost everything. They are politicians, business, actors, signing and doing things which they would care less if they risked tainting their integrity.


  1. Business without passion and relying too much on funding. The idea that young people in business are failing is a myth to a certain extend. It’s a myth because certain aspects of the reasons beneath are not explored. We have failing businesses because the idea that business for many is not a passion or calculated vision but it is because of wanting to escape the poverty zone. That’s why some young people who aspire to be in business claim to not be able to operate due to funding because to them funding is the Alpha and Omega of operations. After being funded their businesses collapse because they would use all the funding for conspicuous consumption. Passionate ones operate even under difficult circumstances with no start-up finances. Promising business for young people must be well funded so that they hire their peers and minimise unemployment. If they are assisted, I am convinced that all these opportunists-turned-entrepreneurs will close down and get employment from those genuine ones who will be helped.


  1. Graduates are unemployed but jobs go in favour of incapable and uneducated politicians. This sour reality makes young people devalue education. To them getting a job is more important because whether educated or not they all end up forming part of same statistics (of unemployment) at one point. Graduates and intellectuals are often spited for being clever for nothing in their communities. There is no practical respect for education under these conditions of commodified unemployment.


  1. Because of hunger and commodified life, ex-offenders are even comfortable with breaking the law so that they can enjoy life in jail where basic needs are taken care of accordingly. It makes it hard for them to adjust to the money-orientated life with just few or no opportunities to assist their rehabilitation process. Nyaope-smoking and consuming liquor daily is used to portray “I don’t care about life” attitude to avoid living in destitute soberly.


  1. Our people sell and rent everything including RDPs which were meant to provide a dignified life but because of this commodified employment renting out their RDPs becomes a viable option to sustain survival. Job scams makes  a lot of money robbing our people and playing “dice” with their hopes even when we raise awareness, they don’t listen because the status quo reached a point where our people are unable to establish truths from facts. They don’t just take money, our people don’t have but leads to rapes, human trafficking and drug smuggling. Young girls justify prostitution as a result of this state of affairs while bosses and top government officials demand sex in exchange of employment. This results in women wrongfully accused when they prosper, tale bearers will often suggest they slept their way on top. Those of us who are gender activists find this worrying and that’s why we are hitting the ground running in attempts to change the status quo.

We have good policies, we just need willing leadership, pragmatic luminaries and selfless servants in right positions. We need government leaders who are not economical with the truth but who mean what they say and say what they mean and mean exactly that. Our minds and hearts (Ubuntu) are enclosed by love for money and we need to free ourselves from this. We need to play our part in getting rid of unemployment.

Action Setaka is a Social engineer, advocate of intellectual discourse, 2016 Member of National youth parliament (commissioner of youth and access to education) and an Activator at Activate Change Drivers






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