One of the biggest headaches pounding government would, of course, be employment creation, especially for graduates.
Not so long ago, one newspaper reported that graduate unemployment figures were in the region of 80,000, a statistical obscenity. Meanwhile, private tertiary institutions are at work manufacturing their next installments to the ever growing problem. Unless something is done in a hurry, graduate unemployment will in time be the country’s number one security threat. The sooner government realises the magnitude of the problem, the better.
Spare the unemployed graduates political promises about growing the national economy as a solution, at least for now. We have become certifiable failures in that regard. Our economy is presently, only a little more than a graveyard of failed projects. I don’t have to give examples. Promises of future economic growth offer no comfort to the eighty thousand graduates roaming the streets. They want jobs today.
The thoughtless fortunate generally blame the graduates for their situations. These armchair critics argue that the graduates are lazy and must retreat to the village and take advantage of the next rains. This group is made up mainly of people in formal employment who found things in better working order when the universities coughed them into the streets. They could spend their breath better suggesting solutions than sticking the middle finger at fellow citizens in dire straits. Many unemployed graduates wake up every morning with only one thing in mind; to find their place in the national economy. To be useful to their country.
I am, presently, sitting on many job applications from lawyers and non-lawyers alike. I know it’s the same with every other law firm in town. To be sure, it’s the same with every business. These are young graduates whose only desire in life is a foothold in the national economy. They are not lazy; just unfortunate. They desire to work, there is no work and neither the private nor public sector are ready to absorb them.
The key selling point for opposition parties in this country should be around addressing graduate unemployment as short term imperative. Likewise that should be the preoccupation of the government of the day. I doubt, however, that either have any organised platform for engagement with the 80,000 unemployed graduates other than Facebook rants and preaching ideals at poorly attended rallies where half the attendees are party faithfuls and the other half are drunks from the neighbourhood. Graduates cannot be expected to look forward to long term economic growth for today’s meals. I do not dismiss economic growth as a national imperative and the ultimate solution. I merely say that you cannot apply future solutions to immediate problems.
I propose to use my trade as an example but my proposition applies to all sectors of the economy. Part of the solution may be to outsource more government legal work. I have identified a general reluctance of government to engage private law firms in its work and a specific tendency to lean towards a select few that mass profiteer from government contracts.
It is easy to say that the select firms are picked for their expertise. There may arguably be some truth in that. In all fairness, however, there is more falsity. The preferred firms generally, immediately outsource the government work to specialised South African or other international institutions, thus exporting job creation opportunities.
These institutions, in turn, are paid a chunk of the millions that could have created employment opportunities for 10 graduate lawyers in just one firm. Government must design a new approach aimed, amongst other, at the development of specialized knowledge and services with regards to legal work.
Specifically, government must insist that for a specific value of work given to a private sector agency in a year, so much must be returned to it in verifiable graduate employment directly linked to the contracted work.
Mass profiteering that doesn’t assist government with employment creation efforts must stop. It must further, be a point of specific focus that work given cannot and should not be outsourced to external or non-citizen entities. Gin work allocation, government must favour entities that can demonstrate the highest graduate employment figures regard being had to their business volumes.
During my years as a civil servant, I interacted with South African government institutions in matters of mutual legal assistance and extradition. One of the most intriguing observations was how liberal they were with regard to engagement of the private bar. I have interacted with private advocates engaged and paid by the South African government to assist with extradition and mutual legal assistance cases. Our overly centralised approach, and the reluctant system based on patronage does not help our employment creation efforts.
Of course the development of specialised knowledge is not going to be achieved overnight. For my trade, these is one area of possible cooperation between government and the Law Society. There is a lot we can do with what we have if only we can abandon approaches based on selfish interests and mass focus more on our children’s welfare.