Education and skills
The transition from higher education to employment is a challenge, considering persistent graduate un- and underemployment. Qualifications are not enough. Graduates (should) develop a ‘workplace identity’ that improves their chances of being employed. An empirical study shows that achieving employability frequently involves several labour-market states in which personal attributes are utilised but also developed. Most graduates are not prepared for this arduous journey, something both higher education institutions and graduates should attend to.
Higher-than-inflation increases in student fees since 2009 often are blamed on declining government subsidies to universities. This is not entirely correct, if one considers real per-student subsidies. Fee increases resulted mainly from cost pressures faced by universities due to growing student numbers and a weakening rand. These pressures will not disappear. Eliminating government wastage is not a durable solution and difficult choices cannot be avoided. So, who should pay for increasing costs, students or government – or which combination of these?
Although many children are maltreated at home, we know little about the effects of abuse on long-term child development. This article explores the association between different ways in which children are maltreated and two educational outcomes (numeracy test scores and dropout). Children who are physically maltreated (e.g. hit hard) regularly suffer severe adverse consequences in terms of their numeracy test scores and probability of dropout – and hence their chances of employment and higher earnings.
South Africa’s large racial gap in enrolment in tertiary education can be attributed to the widely varying quality of primary and secondary education rather than to the low incomes of most black and coloured households. Thus, easing credit constraints for prospective tertiary students via increased financial aid is expected to have a limited impact on African and coloured enrolment. Instead, policymakers should focus on improving educational quality at schools attended by children from low-income households.
How suitable is a ‘developmental state’ to tackle unemployment, inequality and poverty in South Africa?
The National Development Plan envisions the achievement of a ‘capable and developmental state’. Developmental states are usually associated with high economic growth. Such states in East Asia often are seen as models for SA to emulate. However, given the structure of the SA economy, state and society, a developmental state is not suitable, nor attainable. The concept of a social investment state is a better alternative, but it will need key institutional and policy reforms to work.
Increasing levels of youth unemployment and learners’ poor performance at school have led to claims that the matric certificate no longer has much value in the labour market. However, the evidence does not support this claim. While the labour market conditions facing secondary school graduates have indeed worsened with time, the value of a matric certificate relative to that of grade 10 and 11 has remained positive both in terms of earnings and the likelihood of finding employment.
What caused the increase in unemployment in the late 1990s? Were education policies partly responsible?
In the late 1990s the Department of Education restricted the re-enrolment of over-aged learners and the number of times underperforming learners could repeat a grade. This was intended to reduce the number of learners in the school system, but may have contributed to a sudden increase in measured unemployment. Of the 2.3 million increase in the number of unemployed between 1997 and 2003, up to 900 000 may be due to unintended effects of these policies which brought hidden (youth) unemployment into the open.
The frequently reported ‘crisis in graduate unemployment’ in South Africa is a fallacy based on questionable research. Not only is graduate unemployment low at less than 6%, but it also compares well with rates in developed countries. The large expansion of black graduate numbers has not significantly exacerbated unemployment amongst graduates. Contrary to popular perception, such graduates – many from ‘formerly disadvantaged’ universities – have been snapped up by the private sector. Black graduates are, however, still more likely to be unemployed than white graduates.