ESR Project 4

Youth Employability and Socioeconomic Urban Security: Expanding the Inclusion of South African Urban Youth through the Use of a Multidimensional Youth Employability Index

Supervisors Filip De Boeck (University of Leuven) and Morten Nielsen (Aarhus University)

Youth unemployment across South Africa disproportionally affects young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, with high levels of exclusion even for those residing in cities where more work and education opportunities exist. This PhD project will develop a tool for policy makers to better target the urban disadvantaged youth and to subsequently improve their prospects to access socio-economic opportunities and services. This multidisciplinary study encourages the practice of integrating ethnography as an essential component in evidence-based policy making.

The proposed PhD project applies a mixed method approach, whereby a deep ethnographic understanding of what constitutes employability in a context of poverty, unemployment and inequality, feeds into a quantitative model that captures the insights in what will be the first Multidimensional Youth Employability Index.

The qualitative component of the study includes ethnographic fieldwork among urban youth as well as employers in Johannesburg and Cape Town to better understand the impact of particular socio-economic barriers to employability that thus far have remained underrepresented in policy interventions targeting the unemployed youth. These include but not exhaust livelihood conditions in poor households and neighborhoods, exclusion from access to services, conventions on income and work within communities, and peer/kin expectations regarding wage labor. The quantitative component requires the development of an aggregate index, which translates the ethnographic insights in practical and context-specific policy recommendations.

The project will be based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork, including a 5 month secondment in both academic and non-academic institutions.