Statement by the Congress of South African Trade Unions on Youth Day

The Congress of South African Trade Unions joins millions of South Africans to celebrate this June 16th Holiday (Youth Day) and pay tribute to the young people for the role they played in defeating apartheid and bringing democracy.

The 1976 generation paved the way and set standards for the coming generations to never accept mediocrity and tolerate social injustice. This Youth Day takes place when the rate of youth unemployment in the country has reached 63%. The challenge of today’s young people is to revolt against an economic system that excludes them from mainstream economy and that continues to perpetuate apartheid separate development.

At the centre of the 1976 student uprisings was not just the rejection of Afrikaans as a language of academic instruction but it was also that learners were prohibited from being trained for certain professions and trades, in order to preserve the white supremacy and separate development ideology.

The fact that forty-five years after the 1976 uprisings and twenty-seven years after our democratic breakthrough the majority of African children continue to receive poor education and training compared to their white counterparts is scandalous.

All workers now face even bigger challenges as a result of the impact of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, but young people are the ones suffering the most.

The Federation believes that the only way to celebrate this youth day is to push policymakers and business leaders to take drastic steps to open opportunities for young people to meaningfully participate in the economy.

They can do this by creating employment in rural areas through upgrading and development of the rural infrastructure.

Government cannot continue to generously handover unconditional tax breaks and employment subsidies like Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) and Youth Employment Scheme (YES)Programme to the private sector. This is erroneous because many of these companies use these incentives either to accelerate automation and mechanisation and, in some situations, to replace older workers. 

All state agencies including the NYDA have to develop plans to assist in the creation of jobs and they have to be given adequate resources.

It is not just enough for government to increase funding for NSFAS, but young people also need support to start their own businesses and become entrepreneurs.

The Federation would like to see the provision of subsidized credit for young entrepreneurs and steps taken by government to reduce lending costs for young people.

One of the ways to support young people to venture out and start their own business operations is to ensure that local procurement in government and the private sector prioritises young entrepreneurs.

The battle for the current generation of young people is the battle against hunger, unemployment, and economic deprivation, and like the 1976 generation, young people need to stand up and demand what is due to them without fear or favour.

Happy Youth Day!

Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)Tel: 011 339 4911
Cell: 060 975 6794