Social unrest looms as millions of youths face unemployment
The Times Editorial: It is all too easy to ignore the human face of a statistic - whether it is crime, Aids or, in this case, unemployment in South Africa.
For this reason we decided to speak to ordinary South Africans across the racial spectrum about the desperation of not being able to find a job.
Their stories are indeed painful: young people who have never felt the satisfaction and pride of earning their first salary, and older people chopped from their jobs by the axe of retrenchment.
These stories paint a daunting picture of the huge challenges the South African government must overcome if it is to reach its goal of five million new jobs by 2020.
This week President Jacob Zuma told the International Labour Organisation's African regional meeting that South Africa faced immense obstacles, starting with the depressed global economy.
Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant told the meeting that research by the National Planning Commission showed the die of lifetime unemployment was cast if a person did not have a job by 24.
That close to 2.8 million people aged 18 to 24 are unemployed puts the country at grave risk of an explosion of social unrest, something referred to two months ago by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
So where do we go from here? We see the face of unemployment every day as we drive to our workplaces and the hopelessness, resentment and anger is all too evident.
Continuing to extend the social welfare net to poor South Africans is not sustainable. We have to balance state handouts with the distribution of skills. And the sooner we start with our young people who, hackneyed though it might sound, truly represent our future, the better.
Otherwise, as Motlanthe warned: "This statistic represents the ticking time bomb that threatens to aflame pent-up emotions within the youth if not urgently addressed."