A government partnered youth employment initiative has attracted controversy due to its registration process which appears to exclude white South Africans.

YES (Youth Employment Service) 4 Youth is a job-creation programme, involving collaboration between government and labour, which is aimed at battling South Africa’s dismally high youth unemployment rate.

While the aim of the project has been lauded as noble, its registration process has garnered negative publicity, especially amongst white South Africans. The employment initiative is aimed at providing opportunities to South Africans aged between 18 and 35 years old, with the end goal being an improved CV a government-endorsed reference letter and experience in the digital field.

What is YES 4 Youth?

According to yes4youth.co.za, the non-profit organisation is hoping to create one million work opportunities for the youth of South Africa. The programme is endorsed by the government’s National Development Plan 2030, which aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality within the next 12 years.

President Cyril Ramaphosa attended the launch of the YES programme. The president praised the initiative’s commitment to creating employment opportunities for South Africa’s youth and for building a more inclusive and sustainable economy. The president said of the project:

“We need effective and sustainable programmes to prepare young people for first-time employment. This demonstrates that we are a country on the move. We will be coming up with further initiatives to address youth unemployment.”

The job creation initiative is centred on creating work experience – a necessary prerequisite for climbing the employment ladder. To date, YES has managed to secure partnerships with 153 registered companies.

YES relies heavily on business partnerships, which sponsors the youths’ training, development and job placements. These business placement fees are once-off youth management, monitoring and evaluation costs which apply to companies with a turnover greater than R50 million.

Does YES 4 Youth really exclude white South Africans?

YES 4 Youth confirms its passionate commitment to B-BBEE policies, which are aimed at attracting investors looking for associated benefits and creating employment opportunities for black South Africans. The organisation’s website states:

“YES is a business-driven initiative which is breaking new ground by pioneering a partnership with government and labour, in collectively tackling a national plan to build economic pathways for black youth.

Please note we are currently only registering candidates between the ages of 18 and 34, who are currently unemployed and must be black (as per the B-BBEE codes definition).”

Controversial registration process

YES 4 Youth registration procedure / Screenshot via YES 4 Youth website

The organisation’s controversial registration process has brought the debate of racial exclusion to the forefront of discussion’s regarding government’s employment policies. While YES clearly states that its placement programme is geared towards creating job opportunities for non-white South Africans, in accordance with government’s Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment strategy, the organisation does provide alternative job-seeking platforms for those who do not qualify.

The registration criteria on the site are very clear, it states that those hoping to apply for the government partnered programme need to be:

  • black, in accordance with the BEE definition,
  • between the ages of 18 – 34 (as this is the definition of youth)
  • a South African citizen

Yes 4 Youth hits back at bad publicity

The recent controversy surrounding the initiative’s exclusionary registration process forced the organisation to speak out. In response to allegations of ‘reverse racism’, the organisation issued a statement to the media, which said:

“YES aligns with government aims to redress the skewed economic realities as outlined by the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice.

Companies that participate in YES can earn points on their B-BBEE scorecard. YES is thus required to align with the B-BBEE race requirements stipulated in the Codes, which state that B-BBEE is intended for black, Indian and coloured South Africans.

We have updated our registration process to provide an avenue for job-seeking white youth to create a profile (through our partner organisations) and be connected with such opportunities.

The YES movement is bigger than race. It’s about every South African with resources choosing to do what they can to reshape the economic future of our country.”

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