South Africa has one of the youngest populations in the world at 24.9 years. This is both a major opportunity and a major risk.
During a few of our recent roadshows/presentations we have highlighted the massive drop-out ratio within South Africa’s schooling system, the poor Grade 12 pass rate, the frighteningly high unemployment rate among people aged 18 to 24, the increased social discord amongst the youth, and the overwhelming need to provide young people with their first-time job opportunity. These concerns are all inter-linked and together reflect South Africa’s most dire socio-economic problem. And stand in complete contrast with the emphatic success of the Soccer World Cup, and the potential the event has revealed about the country.
Ironically, a major portion of South Africa’s long-term socio-economic potential is reflected in the youth. The average age of our population is currently estimated at 24.9. This is one of the lowest in the world and certainly lower than most large emerging economies (eg BRIC countries) and all of the developed world. The average age in the world is currently estimated at 29.1 years, with some countries as low as 16.8 years (Malawi), and some as high as 44.7 years (Japan). (See chart attached).
South Africa’s relatively young population is both a major advantage and a major disadvantage. It is estimated that currently over 20% of South Africa’s population is younger than 10 years old, while in China the percentage is 9.6%, US 9.7%, Germany 8.5%, and Japan 8.5%. The long-term economic success of South Africa, on both a relative and absolute basis, will largely depend on how the youth integrate into the economy, which is really a function of education and job creation.
A vibrant and well educated work-force is a major advantage for any country, however, a discouraged and poorly educated youth is a recipe for a socio-economic disaster.
Download the chart here