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Youth, precarious work and the gig economy: Rethinking social policy responses

See an excerpt below, read the full article written by Lauren Graham and Hannah Dawson here

South Africa’s unemployment figures rarely contain good news – particularly for the country’s young people.

The latest figures, released on June 23, are no different.

And they come as no surprise: it’s well known that South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates of young people in the world, with 59% of youngsters aged between 15 and 24 currently unemployed (up by 1% since the end of last year).

These figures pertain to the period before the national lockdown – the first three months of this year – and are thus only likely to worsen throughout the year and beyond as the economy (predicted to contract by a massive 7.2%) feels the effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In this context, how do young people make a living?

Our research demonstrates that young people use several strategies to earn some income where wage work is not only increasingly unavailable but also precarious.

First is “hustling” – a catch phrase that refers to a wide array of strategies young people employ to make money in the informal economy.

This includes them running internet cafés, beauty salons and corner cafés, renting out back rooms or shacks, fixing people’s cars as informal mechanics, wiring illegal electricity connections for a fee, street side gambling, transactional sex as well as getting sponsorship from non-governmental organisations and local politicians to support local initiatives and community-based organisations.

But while “hustling” and other forms of “informal entrepreneurship” are gaining traction among young people, our research shows that only a small number of youngsters see it as a viable livelihood and something to strive towards.

In most instances, young people remain eager to gain employment in the formal labour market and only turn to the informal economy because they lost a job or failed to find one.

Young people invest a great deal of time and money trying to acquire formal employment. READ MORE

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