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Tackling youth unemployment through work-based learning: experimental evidence from South Africa

South Africa’s youth unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world — by some estimates it stands at 52%. One explanation for this high unemployment rate is that job seekers lack the skills required by the private sector and they are unable to develop them without opportunities to learn through work. Another is that companies are uncertain about entry-level job seekers’ skills, particularly in the case of young women, who are disproportionally affected by this national emergency.

This project seeks to generate sound evidence on effective work-based learning approaches that enable young people to successfully transition from school to work in South Africa, with lessons that can be applied to other countries. Helping young people get a foot in the door may alleviate several constraints, and to this end a youth employment service was recently launched. This collaborative partnership between the private sector, the South African government, and civil society seeks to facilitate entry into the labour market for first-time workers by providing them with work-based learning opportunities and other assistance. By assessing the impact of this program, the project will provide valuable insights into the drivers of effective work-based learning and mentorship models.

The project is part of a cohort of IDRC-supported projects aimed at boosting decent employment for Africa’s youth. This focuses on two niche areas: soft and digital skills and apprenticeship and mentorship models that work for youth. Developed as part of a collaborative effort between IDRC, the Dutch Knowledge Platform on Inclusive Development Policies, and the International Labour Organization, the goal is to provide practical guidance and tools for policymakers and practitioners to help realize aspirations for large-scale positive change.

Project ID
Project Status
24 months
IDRC Officer
Martha Melesse
Total Funding
CA$ 501,600.00
South Africa
Employment and Growth
Sustainable Inclusive Economies
Institution Country
South Africa
Project Leader
Patrizio Piraino
University of Cape Town