We the Youth are saying yes to universal basic income, jobs, and skills development

This historic day marks 48 years since the Soweto Uprising, where 20,000 young people stood up against the apartheid regime’s Bantu Education policies. A catalytic youth-led protest that fundamentally changed the socio-political landscape of South Africa. The Social Policy Initiative (SPI) remembers and commemorates the bravery and sacrifices of the youth of 1976 and recognises their pivotal role in shaping South Africa’s path to liberation and formal democracy.

As we reflect, however, we are reminded of the plight of the youth and recognise the pressing challenges and crises faced by the current generation of young South Africans. On this Youth Day, and in this Youth Month, it is hardly a celebration when we candidly confront the many structural problems that continue to disempower and disenfranchise the youth.

South Africa’s unemployment rates have reached crisis levels with youth unemployment being a particularly acute issue. According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) of Statistics South Africa, for the first quarter of 2024, South Africa recorded 12,1 million or 41,9% (expanded definition) unemployed adults, and by contrast, 6,7 million or 45,5% unemployed young people between the ages of 15–35, and a devastating unemployment rate of 69,6% for youth between 15 and 24 years. In addition, approximately 3,6 million young people aged between 15-24 are not in employment, education, or training (NEET). In April 2024, Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant applications by young people between the ages of 18-35 accounted for 62.9% of the total 16,6 million applications received by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), underscoring their urgent need for basic income, given the lack of jobs available to them.

The World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2024 report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) shows that global youth unemployment for 2023 was 13,3%, yet in South Africa, it is more than 4 times higher than this global average.

The lack of jobs at the structural level, and the failure of the state to provide affordable and relevant further education and skills training has left many young people frustrated, disillusioned, poor, and unable to achieve upward mobility. South Africa has the world’s second-highest youth unemployment rate in the world, after Djibouti. The scale of this situation is a national emergency that demands immediate, decisive, and effective action.

SPI recognises that the future of our country hinges on addressing the demands of our young people for basic income, jobs, skills, and access to opportunities. We call on the incoming coalition government to prioritize investment in the youth, by addressing governmental issues that hinder thinking and effective strategies around the youth, championing the private sector’s involvement to be active drivers and generators of employment, and introducing a comprehensive policy on social security built around a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of R1500 which would be taxed back from those who work.

“This is the age when you should be having your first and second jobs, picking up skills, starting to save towards your own house, and maybe planning on marriage and even kids. Instead, we see millions of youth stuck in perpetual adolescence”, said Isobel Frye, executive director of SPI.

The SPI model of UBI of R1 500 could be 96% self-financing if introduced with the necessary macroeconomic reforms as an economic stimulus.

This guaranteed monthly income would function as a tool to enable unemployed youths to seek employment while providing a decent floor of protection to all vulnerable young people in the country by having their most basic needs met.


For further information contact:

Isobel Frye: isobel@spi.net.za 084 5081271