Poverty & Inequality Initiative Update:
A special focus on youth

Youth indicators to inform policy and interventions

On June 16th, we will be celebrating the agency, dreams and aspirations of South Africa’s youth. But, we also need to talk about the slow progress made in terms of youth well-being, and in providing the support that young people need. As research by the Poverty & Inequality Initiative (PII) at the University of Cape shows, the well-being of the country’s youth remains challenged in crucial domains such as educational attainment, employment and health; and many young people remain in dire situations in “pockets of deprivation” across the country’s provinces.

The PII took a dedicated focus on youth since its establishment, with research largely supported by the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU). This work takes special interest in the age group 15 to 24 years, a crucial developmental stage as youth transition from adolescence into young adulthood.

We are drawing on some of that work here, in particular insights from two projects developed in the past years: a Youth Multidimensional Poverty Index, and the Youth Explorer – an online, interactive platform where youth-centred data on several domains of youth well-being can be explored from the national to municipal and ward level. Census 2011 and Community Survey 2016 data are used, but we foreground that administrative data, regularly collected by government departments, can provide additional and important nuances to our understanding of youth well-being and can help to create early warning systems that could trigger interventions. The PII is seeking partnerships on the use of such administrative data in all provinces to expand the Youth Explorer to the benefit of provincial governments. Read on – and please contact us if you wish to work with us towards this goal.

Chief Researcher Ariane De Lannoy
SALDRU, PII

 

The need for youth indicators

The National Youth Policy (NYP) 2015 – 2020 recognises the low outcomes in crucial domains of youth well-being such as educational attainment, employment and health, and places these three domains central in its approach. But the policy still lacks an implementation plan and the country remains without a coherent understanding of the various deprivations in young people’s lives and the complex ways in which these interact. Youth well-being indicators can help inform the implementation of the NYP both within line departments and in an across-government approach, while analysis at sub-national levels assist with the identification of areas of greatest need within provinces and municipalities.

 

The value of tracking indicators over time

Tracking data on South Africa’s youth assists in monitoring progress in well-being domains and can identify where interventions are needed. For example, the Youth Explorer shows a 7% increase in 16 to 17-year-olds completing grade 9 or higher between 2011 and 2016. On the other hand, it indicates a drop in the number of youth who live in households with no piped water during the same period.

 

Identifying hidden "pockets of deprivation"

National data, however, mask important differences at the sub-national and sub-provincial levels. For example, the proportion of Gauteng youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) (32%) is lower than the national average. But within Gauteng, there are much higher pockets of NEET rates in some wards: in Westonaria, Merafong City and City of Tshwane, for example, NEET rates exceed 40%.

 

Considering multidimensional poverty

Young people experience several types of deprivation simulateously. These interact and reinforce one another. For instance, income poverty impacts on nutrition or on access to decent housing and, in that way, impacts on health. SALDRU’s construction and analysis of a multidimensional youth poverty index indicates that, in 2011, one in three (33.4%) youth in South Africa were multidimensionally poor. The majority of these young people continue to live in the old homelands but pockets of severe deprivation also exist in many of the country’s urban areas.

The multiplicity of deprivations and their interactions require us to think about a more comprehensive approach to youth well-being than what currently exists in the country.

 

The absence of critical data:
an opportunity to collaborate

Our latest policy brief on the state of youth well-being in South Africa notes two important gaps in our knowledge of youth’s status: the absence of 2016 Community Survey data on income and employment indicators; and the need for administrative data at various geographical levels on a range of important outcomes for youth – such as literacy and numeracy, or health. These are critical domains to monitor for progress, especially at sub-national levels, and to intervene where necessary.

 

Youth-related research and other publications

Unpacking the lived realities of Western Cape youth. Exploring the well-being of young people residing in five of the most deprived areas in the Western Cape Province. Research Summary.
Ariane De Lannoy, Alicia Fortuin, Tsitsi Mpofu-Mketwa, Gibson Mudiriza, Sonwabiso Ngcowa,
Evelien Storme, Charmaine Smith. 2018.
Cape Town: Department of the Premier: Western Cape Government and SALDRU, University of Cape Town.

Unpacking the lived realities of Western Cape youth. Exploring the well-being of young people residing in five of the most deprived areas in the Western Cape Province. Research Report.
Ariane De Lannoy, Alicia Fortuin, Tsitsi Mpofu-Mketwa, Gibson Mudiriza, Sonwabiso Ngcowa,
Evelien Storme, Charmaine Smith. 2018.
Cape Town: Department of the Premier: Western Cape Government and SALDRU, University of Cape Town.

Measuring multidimensional poverty among youth in South Africa at the sub-national level
Emily Frame, Ariane De Lannoy, Murray Leibbrandt.
SALDRU working paper series no. 169, University of Cape Town.

Defining a basic package of support for youth
Charmaine Smith. 2017. Mandela Initiative newsletter, Issue 4, December 2017.

Comprehensive support for youth “a responsibility”
Charmaine Smith. 2017 Mandela Initiative newsletter, Issue 2, March 2017.

Multidimensional Youth Poverty: Estimating the Youth MPI in South Africa at ward level
Emily Frame, Ariane De Lannoy, Patricia Koka, Murray Leibbrandt. 2016.
SALDRU working paper series no. 169, University of Cape Town.

South African Child Gauge 2015
Ariane De Lannoy, Sharlene Swartz, Lori Lake, Charmaine Smith (eds) South African Child Gauge 2015.
Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town.

 

 

Poverty and Inequality Initiative
SALDRU, School of Economics, University of Cape Town.
Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa.


 

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