16 June 2020

Youth Day: Highlighting policy and legislative instruments that support Youth Development


On June 16 each year, South Africans celebrate Youth Day.

South Africa has a long history of institutional, policy and legislative instruments that have and continue to contribute to youth development. In this blog, we turn the spotlight on existing policy and legislative instruments as affecting the youth of today. 

National Youth Development Agency Act (2008)

The National Youth Development Agency Act makes provisions for the establishment of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), an entity which gives resonance to youth development in South Africa. The Act also provides for the functions and objectives; management and governance; regulation of staff and financial affairs; and administration of funds in the NYDA.

Of late, some youth organisations have called for the review of the Act, arguing it is narrowly conceptualised. Calls have been made for its expansion such that, if revised and amended, it would ensure the recognition of many other young people who drive community and development initiatives that are committed to changing lives within their communities.

National Youth Development Agency (2009)

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) was “established primarily to tackle challenges that the nation’s youth are faced with.” As a development-funding Agency it is intended to be a platform for job creation, skills development, and skills transfer, for South Africa’s youth. The Minister in the Presidency is responsible for the Agency.

Following expiration of the NYDA Board’s term of office in May 2020, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, and the Select Committee on Health and Social Services had initially scheduled to conclude selection and appointment processes of a new Board mid-March, following which the names of prospective candidates would have been sent to both Houses of Parliament for approval, to give the President a month to take a decision on the recommended names put forward. These processes are still yet to be concluded.

National Youth Policy (2015)

The National Youth Policy (NYP) for 2015-2020 was “developed for all young people in South Africa, with a focus on redressing the wrongs of the past and addressing the specific challenges and immediate needs of the country’s youth.” The NYP 2020 builds on South Africa’s first NYP, which covered the period 2009–2014.

Concerns have been continually expressed over the lack of emphasis placed by the policy, as spearheaded by the NYDA, upon rural youth, as well as over the declining standards of education in the country, particularly with regard to the National Senior Certificate.

The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities commenced a nationwide review and consultative process on the national youth policy early March 2020. The review is an important platform that comes once every five years to give meaningful expression to the African Youth Charter and the African Union Action Plan, both of which underscore the significance of establishing youth policy frameworks across the continent to address the problems faced by young people. Flowing from these consultative processes, a national youth policy consultative summit, which had been scheduled for March 23 and 24, was since postponed owing to Covid-19.

Draft National Youth Policy (2020-2030)

The National Youth Policy (NYP) for 2020-2030 (NYP 2030) is “a cross-sectorial policy aimed at effecting positive youth development efforts from local, provincial and national levels in South Africa. It is developed by young people, for all young people in South Africa, with the intent to redress the wrongs and injustices of the past and to deal decisively with new and emerging challenges and needs of the country’s youth.”

This strategic document is expected to improve upon the previous policies by speaking to the new challenges that South Africa’s youth face, while acknowledging that there is more to be done to address the challenges identified in the previous NYP. In online petitions to the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, asking for an extension of the 16 March 2020 deadline for submission of comments, various advocacy groups lamented that “the draft document is a copy-and-paste of the current policy”.

It is still to be seen whether this policy, upon ratification and implementation, will speak to the concerns of the South African youth from different stations of life, in their diversity.

Employment Tax Incentive Act, 2013

Commonly referred to as the “youth wage subsidy”, the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) Act came into effect as of the 1st of January 2014 in an attempt to incentivise the employment of young South Africans between the ages of 18 and 29. The youth unemployment crisis is compounded by the fact that young people often lack the necessary skills and experience required by the corporate world. This incentive seeks to facilitate an increased chance of young South Africans being able to access the workforce, and thus – the formal economy.

However, some trade unions were vigorously opposed to the law, with Cosatu arguing it encourages employers to fire experienced workers to employ younger ones to receive the tax concession.

Role of Parliament in Youth Development

Today’s youth are faced with a myriad of challenges, foremost being: high unemployment, poverty, crime, diseases and infections, lack of skills and lack of access to basic services.

Parliament has the following committees to deal with youth issues: Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities; and the Select Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities. These Committees are responsible for oversight on youth matters and must deal with legislation that affects young people. Parliament also has various initiatives targeted at different sectors, for example, Youth Parliament (held during Youth Month) in which matters pertinent to youth are discussed. This year’s Youth Day debate will be held on Wednesday, 17 June 2020 at 3pm, under the theme “Youth Power – Growing South Africa together in a time of Covid-19”.

“The need to speed up the realization of a better life for young people, by continuing to deepen national forum for public consideration of issues, passing transformative legislation and overseeing executive action, has never been so urgent. The increase of youth representation in the Sixth Parliament to 11% is thus a necessary injection of required energy and new ideas towards the attainment of true social justice, wealth redistribution and robust advancement of youth agenda.”

These were the words of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Thandi Modise, in her Youth Day statement in 2019.

Lastly, as part of its core mandate of making laws, Parliament has passed many other pieces of legislation such as the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Amendment Act 2013, the Skills Development Act 2008, and the Employment Equity Act 2013. Parliament in its oversight role, oversees implementation of enacted legislation which includes laws intended for the country’s youth.


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People's Assembly

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