The launch of South Africa’s Youth Employment Index (YEI) on Tuesday (23 April) saw the beginning of a co-ordinated effort to encourage businesses across the spectrum to employ young South Africans, and to recognise organisations that do so.
The YEI is a joint, apolitical initiative between global audit, tax and advisory firm, Mazars; leading rewards and recognition company, Uwin Iwin; and strategic communications agency, Pleiades Media – all of which have a shared passion to see sustainable youth employment placed firmly on the agenda of business South Africa.
The YEI is an online index ( http://www.yeindex.org ) whereby employers of all sizes, be they government, parastatal, corporates or SMEs, can register and be instantly recognised for their efforts to actively promote and support youth employment. Organisations that wish to participate in the YEI will be asked to register the number of young people between the ages of 16 and 35 that they employ and to commit to developing these employees.
Registration fees will fund the running costs of the YEI initiative and will also cover the costs of ensuring that registered companies are correctly audited. Since the YEI is a registered NPO (N2165/ANJS), these fees are tax deductible.
Apart from the website, the YEI plans to attract 12 founder members to help devise a viable framework for sustainable youth employment and constructive skills transfer in the workplace. This framework will encourage job creation and promote sustainability.
“The role of the founder members, drawn from different industry sectors, will be to formulate best practice for youth employment and integration in the workplace and to develop appropriate benchmarks against which companies can be measured for their youth employment effectiveness,” says Nazreen Sekao Pandor, chairperson of the YEI and associate director at Mazars.
The growing challenge of unemployment among South African youth is an issue that has far reaching economic and social implications. The current unemployment rate among the 15- to 24-year-old age group is estimated to be 48.2 percent, just short of double the national unemployment average of 25 percent, (Source: Quarter Three 2012 Statistics South Africa Report).
The 2012 World Bank report, Inequality of Opportunity in SA supports this bleak statistic, attributing the country’s weak economic performance to slow job creation and highly unequal access to employment opportunities among the 15- to 24-year-old age group in particular, which is among the most challenged groups within the country’s population.
“As entrepreneurs, we are obviously concerned about the future,” said David Sand, CEO of Uwin Iwin. “We recognise government’s role in creating a framework to incentivise the employment of young South Africans. However, we believe that it is both corporate and SMME employers that will have to come up with a sustainable solution to the problem of youth unemployment. As co-creators of the YEI, we want to provide an opportunity for local businesses and employers to tackle this problem and to recognise and reward those who are doing so.”
“As a rewards and recognition company we recognise the power of joint initiatives and a healthy spirit of competition,” added Sand. I believe that by raising awareness of the need for youth employment – and by incentivising organisations to employ and nurture young people – we can help to change the course of the country’s future in a way that is lasting and sustainable.”
Companies that register on the YEI will have their submissions audited by Mazars, which won the Audit Innovation of the Year award for its Human Rights Audit practice in London last year at the inaugural International Accounting Bulletin Awards.
“For those who make their best effort to be employable, we consider having a job and being able to further oneself career wise to be a human right,” said Pandor.
“We are excited about the opportunity to bring our expertise to an initiative that can promote this right, while also contributing towards a solution that is sustainable both to business and the economy as a whole.”
Organisations registered with the YEI will be categorised according to size, from large corporates to SMMEs, and will be rated according to criteria including skills development initiatives, bursaries, internships, mentorships, youth entrepreneurial initiatives and corporate social investment opportunities involving young people and management positions.
The top performing companies in each category, in terms of youth employment and talent management, will receive recognition for their initiatives at an awards evening. Proceeds generated as a result of this event will go towards a trust aimed at supporting various youth projects.
“Commenting on the role of Pleiades Media in the YEI, CEO Kerry Botha says: “We have always believed in the value of public relations and the powerful role that the media has to play in catalysing necessary shifts, be they social, economic or political.”
In addition to the recognition that the top performing companies will receive, by registering as a YEI supporter, participating companies align themselves with the vision of youth employment. This will position them as organisations that go beyond merely making a profit, but which also take an active role in contributing to the betterment of the younger generation.
For more information or to register with the YEI, visit www.yeindex.org