SA Youth 2018 – What are they up to?

YOUTH 2018 – What are they up to?

I attended the UCT Unilever Institute Youth Report 2018 workshop in Durban last week. The objective of this intensive in-depth research was to “understand what it is like to be a South African youth in 2018”

Good question – is it all doom and gloom?

The Stats – Quite scary

  • Half of South Africa’s population is under 24 years old, in Japan the equivalent figure is 47, in Nigeria 18
  • 64% of South African youth are considered poor, not living in poverty, but poor living in the bottom two quintiles or in LSM’s 1-4.
  • The number of social grant recipients in 1999 was 22,000, now in 2018 the number is just over 12 million children receiving R410 a month
  • Only 35% of South African children live with both parents, 40% with their mother only, 3% with their father only, and 21% in child headed households
  • Currently 120,000 schoolchildren have fallen pregnant, 3500 are under the age of 14
  • Education has improved in terms of access, but still 70% of schools have no functioning library, 60% of schools do not have a computer lab. But 92% of children attend an Early Childhood Development facility.
  • Of 1 118 690 children entering school only 455 825 pass matric, and only 349 983 achieve a university exemption. But since 1996 attendance at tertiary institutions as grown by 445%
  • Youth unemployment is a problem worldwide, the number of South African NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training – NEET) between 21 and 24 is estimated at 51%.
  • Automation and the decline of the manufacturing sector in SA is a major challenge

The Future – Not without Hope

  • Education is a major game changer; The number of graduates has grown from 400,000 in 1995 to approximately 1.1 million in 2011, contrary to popular opinion very few are unemployed
  • Micro – privilege is a major game changer; living in the middle class, having access to a decent school, books and a culture of learning and achievement makes a considerable difference
  • Proximity to opportunity is a major game changer; those use that grew up in an urban environment have considerably more opportunity than those in rural areas
  • Use of social media is a major game changer; 93% have a social media account, 53% are spending more than two hours a day on social media, new trends are emerging that engage the youth, 59% feel that data costs are restricting their lives
  • In 2018 the youth are living at home longer, studying longer, taking longer to find a job, and depending on their parents and family longer
  • More so than previously youth feel under pressure from family, community, peers, remaining relevant, lack of money and securing a job.

And on the positive side

  • 64% of youth feel generally content, 43% are using social media to find goods and services suited to themselves
  • Short-circuiting the system has becomes a way of life
  • Becoming socially conscious, particularly with regards to social causes is a major source of identity called “Staying Woke”
  • Sustainability is a hot topic
  • ‘Ownership of goods’ is giving way to seeking authentic and original experiences
  • A growing belief, inspired by the failings of previous generations, that the future will be built on their own individual efforts
  • 80% believe they have the ability to change their current circumstances

The Youth 2018 Mantra for getting ahead

  • Be real – don’t downplay the pressures of today
  • Be fluid – one size won’t fit all
  • Be honest – ‘fake’ is easily exposed
  • Be hopeful – today’s youth need you to believe in them
  • Be proactive – it’s easy to be forgotten, change must be intentionally driven and visible
  • Be brave – don’t get caught up in generational angst


The UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing’s Youth 2018 report was most interesting and very informative

I came away feeling anxious but nevertheless hopeful.