STATISTICIAN General Dr Pali Lehohla’s revelation that South Africa’s education system had regressed over the last 20 years should come as no surprise to anyone who has witnessed the upheavals of the last year at university campuses.
Statistics South Africa’s recently released the “Social Profile of Youth” survey, which captures data from between 2009 and 2014 sums up the problems that young people in South Africa are facing, from a failing education system, to unemployment, mortality and their migration patterns which often bring about a whole set of social problems.
Lehohla had dubbed this “a cocktail of disasters”.
While the growth in South Africa’s population stood at 6,9%, the number of youngsters only grew by six percent- offset by lower birthrates with the average woman giving birth to 2,5 children on average.
While there were numerically more black South Africans entering tertiary education, the number who eventually graduated from university, as a proportion of the black population, had dropped off significantly since the early 1990s with Lehohla saying that black and coloured South Africans had regressed in their educational attainment.
Compared to white and Indian South Africans who in the late 1990s saw more their racial groups, again as a percentage of the population, graduating from university.
While Lehohla might not have said it at his press conference, this brings into context the #FeesMustFall protests and the call for transformation on campuses around South Africa.
When it came to migration, Lehohla said decisions by youngsters to leave their homes were often related to important life transitions like obtaining higher education, starting work, or getting married.
The Eastern Cape was the province where most youngsters were likely to migrate with only 67,6% choosing to remain there compared to 88,3% in Gauteng and 91,3% in the Western Cape.
The biggest beneficiaries of youth migration was Gauteng whose youth population between 2009 and 2014 grew by an astonishing 428 000 with the Western Cape the second favoured choice with 281 000. The province which lost the most youngsters came as no surprise with 367 000 deciding to leave the Eastern Cape.
There were slightly fewer youth-headed households recorded in the survey, going from 27,5% in 2009 to 26,1% in 2014. The decrease had mostly been observed for older youth between the ages of 25 and 34 where it dropped 1,2% from 21,7 to 20,5%.
On the opposite scale, white and Indian South Africans were more likely to stay in nuclear households 65,7% and 56,5% respectively. This though is in contrast to another figure which shows that amongst whites the number of people living in extended households had increased 17,1% in 2009 to 24,8% in 2014. This can probably be attributed to the stagnant economy, forcing many youngsters to move back home with their parents.
For those youth who did manage to live on their own their expenditure tended to be rent, and utility services like water and electricity followed in second place by transport. The survey also found that for the group 25 to 34 only spent 1,6 percent of their income on health.
When it came to young people starting their own businesses, the numbers from Statistics SA showed that young entrepreneurs had declined by 2,6% to 27,2%.
This was also echoed in the number of economically active youth, meaning those who actively sought employment, declining by 1,7%.
While the number of youth seeking employment was down slightly, those who were actively looking for work and terming themselves unemployed had increased from 34,2% in 2009 to 35,9% in 2014.
In a nutshell, approximately two-thirds of South Africa’s five million unemployed consisted of youth in 2014.
The survey found that unemployment amongst youth was strongly linked to educational attainment, with 57% of those who were unemployed having “less than matric”, 38% with a matric certificate and four percent some tertiary education while only one percent of graduates were unemployed.
Black and coloured youth were most likely to find themselves amongst the ranks of the unemployed, with 66,6% being black and 68,9% being coloured.
Young men spent on average 21 minutes more per day on leisure activities compared to women, which came in at 102 and 81 respectively.
When it came to crime and violence, those between the ages of 16 and 34 were twice more likely to have experienced assault and robbery than adults. Most of the victims of violent assault were found to be females from the Eastern Cape, making up 55,7% of reported cases. On average 40,1% of violent assault victims in South Africa were female.
Between 2012 and 2013/14 Stats SA found that youth were also more likely to be perpetrators of assault, robbery, property theft crimes.
The leading cause of death for youth were listed as “certain infectious and parasitic diseases” which could include TB, HIV/Aids and intestinal infectious diseases. Young men were likely to die of external causes like vehicle accidents and murder while young women died of diseases like TB and HIV/Aids.
Female-headed households reported a higher percentage of death than their male counterparts and households headed by Black Africans were more likely to report youth deaths at 94,5% which was above their population proportion of around 80%.
Youth deaths were more likely to occur in KZN at 30,7%, Eastern Cape at 17,8% and Gauteng at 13,1 percent.
While the Western Cape was the second largest recipient of Eastern Cape youth leaving that province, their living conditions once they arrived could hardly be described as ideal and 13% of them lived in informal settlements. In the North West this figure stood at 15,4 percent, with most of these informal settlements dotted around the Platinum Belt.
In most provinces youth were likely to live in poverty but the percentage of youth who lived in poverty had declined across all nine provinces between 2008 and 2011.