Data released by Statistics South Africa in the fourth quarter of 2021 showed that 45% of young people aged 34 and under were not in employment, education or training.

This means that more than four out of 10 young men and women were unemployed and not receiving vocational training. In 2022, the unemployment rate for young South Africans is expected to reach 64%.

Globally, we are experiencing the “double disruption” of the economic impact of the pandemic and the increasing automation of jobs.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that by 2025, 85 million jobs worldwide could be eliminated by technological disruption. However, no less than 97 million new jobs could emerge.

Massive youth unemployment remains a major challenge for South Africa, as many young people struggle to meaningfully participate in the economy.

However, technological disruption offers an opportunity to upskill and re-skill young people to steer them towards new income-earning opportunities.

Following the rising unemployment rate among young South Africans, the UK-South Africa Tech Hub Launch League initiative undertook a research project to investigate over 40 South African hubs, skills and entrepreneurial training organizations to understand how they enable young South Africans to become economically active.

According to the report – titled ‘Skills and Training Offered by South Africa’s Hub Network: How South African Hubs Can Train and Help Young South Africans Earn Income in the New Economy?’ – hubs, incubators, digital skills trainers and entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) play a vital role in preparing people for the reality of the new economy.

The new economy is described as an economy that intensively produces or uses innovative or new technologies – and is largely service-oriented – with an increase in entrepreneurship and on-demand employment.

By developing skills in entrepreneurship, digital technologies and gig work, organizations can provide young people with a bridge to help them transition into these pathways to income.

As digital technology changes the way people work and live, individuals need a complex variety of skills to adapt to the demands of the digital age.

Skills that are both specialized and transversal are necessary for the professions of tomorrow, and to access new income opportunities.

The WEF’s Future of Work report defines these skills in four broad categories: problem solving, self-management, working with people, and using and developing technology.

According to the Launch League report, entrepreneurship and gig work (i.e. labor saving) have both been touted as South Africa’s solution to mitigating extreme levels unemployment.

While entrepreneurship interventions have been a priority in South Africa for some time, gig readiness is increasingly recognized as a critical area for skills development.

On-demand work – comprising flexible, short-term, freelance work that often involves connecting individuals to clients through apps and websites – changes the course of people’s careers as they are pushed to create profiles professionals outside of traditional structures.

While not a new phenomenon, advances in technology are making gig work accessible to more people.

More and more people are selling their work as “gigs” and companies are looking for contract workers to not only cut costs, but also to create a flexible workforce that includes outsourced talent from around the world.

In the South African context, gig work is an opportunity for people to participate in temporary work and earn an income rather than remain unemployed when permanent jobs remain scarce.

While a promising path to income, gig work has its downsides, including overwork, social isolation, job insecurity, and lack of regulation around benefits. Preparing and managing the concert environment therefore requires a specific set of skills.

According to the UK-South Africa Tech Hub Launch League report, for gig work to provide a sustainable path to income, “gig work readiness” will become essential.

The principles of readiness for technology-enabled gig work include:

– Continuous learning of new skills as old skills and technologies become redundant.

– Gain experience and skills in a wide range of applications.

– The ability to work independently or as part of a virtual team.

– Demonstrate autonomy and assertiveness.

– Acquire self-promotion and branding skills.

– Financial capacity to manage life from one concert to another.

– Entrepreneurial thinking – seeing yourself as a business offering a range of capabilities.

The British High Commission, which funded the research, is available for comment on request.

To download the report, go here.

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