COSATU International Youth Day Statement

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) celebrates International Youth Day, and joins the global trade union movement, standing together with and sending a message to the young workers of today, tomorrow, and to those who hold and exercise power within and beyond the world of work.

COSATU notes that today´s generation of youth is the largest in history. Yet too often, across the world, opportunities for young people to engage politically, economically, and socially are constantly limited and undermined. Globally, economic exclusion and youth unemployment remain just two of the major challenges faced by young people. As we reflect on the strides that have been made to put the youth at the forefront of leading conversations on the evolving world of work, the Corona Virus pandemic has now introduced the need to include the young worker in paving way for the “world of work – beyond COVID-19”. Pointing to fears of “a lost generation” who face permanent exclusion from labour markets, we caution that as the world recovers from the pandemic, we need to make sure that young people are not left behind.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s latest analysis of the labour market impact of COVID-19 exposes the devastating and disproportionate effect on young workers. According to this analysis, more than one in six young people have stopped working since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, while those who remain employed have seen their working hours cut by 23 per cent. The pandemic is inflicting a triple shock on young people. Not only is it destroying their employment, but it is also disrupting education and training, and placing major obstacles in the way of those seeking to enter the labour market or to move between jobs.

The youth is the keystone to achieving sustainable societies. Observing this, African young workers has no choice but to fight. Fight against poverty, poor education, ill health, violence, hunger, and exploitation.

COSATU calls on young workers to demand the prioritisation of:

·         Quality jobs that guarantee a decent living, good wages, work security via standard employment and access to social protections, good working conditions in safe and healthy workplaces with good work-life balance, as well as trade union representation and bargaining rights;

·         Empowerment of young women to take control of their experience at work and speak out against discrimination by understanding their rights;

·         Support through future of work transitions from education into the world of work, so young people equipped with the basic skills that will enable them fully and successfully participate in the fast-changing world of work;

·         Democratic trade unions with sustainable institutional capacity, as well as organising, bargaining and campaigning capacity. These are fundamental to strengthening young workers’ collective power; and

·         Opportunities that will enable youth workers to share experiences, perceptions and practices relating to development and global justice issues.


Issued by COSATU

COSATU International Relations Officer

066 139 4220