The Youth: Features, politics, and the future

Young South African adults do very well when it comes to being able to understand different languages, especially English that is seen as a lingua franca among them – no doubt fuelled by the important role played by English in using either a mobile phone or the internet.

Young people in South Africa are definitely well-connected, with 98% having access to a cellphone, albeit not always a smart phone. In addition, a remarkably high proportion (92%) of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 have also indicated that they have access to the internet, although many of them do not have access at home, work, or an educational institution, most have access via their mobile phones. (Internet access of all adult South Africans is 85% - also mainly via mobile phone.)

Young South African adults do very well when it comes to being able to understand different languages, especially English that is seen as a lingua franca among them – no doubt fuelled by the important role played by English in using either a mobile phone or the internet.

These are some of the findings of a Khayabus study that Ipsos undertook at the end of 2021. A total of 3,600 interviews were conducted with adult South Africans from the last week of November to the end of December 2021.

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic countless jobs were lost, many of them by young people, therefore it is relevant to have a look at the current work status of the young people in our country – are they making inroads into the labour market and finding work?

Unfortunately, looking at the next graph, it is clear that young people do not feature much in different categories of occupations when compared to the figures for all adults in South Africa. Far more young people will have to gain access to the formal employment market in the country for this situation to change.

Perhaps this explains a bit of the fact that a higher proportion of young people between the ages of 18-24 are receiving government grants than in the population as a whole:

  • 37% of young people between 18 and 24 receive a government grant, while
  • 33% of all South African adults do.

Somewhat surprisingly, the opinions expressed by young people and all adult South Africans were almost on a par, looking at those who either strongly agree or agree with a few opinions on politics, political parties, and elections in our country:

Apart from the fact that these figures look rather similar it is a worry that less than half of South Africans in all adult age groups agree with these opinions. It shows the phenomenon that developed over the last number of years that voters became more and more disillusioned in political parties (and politicians). This feeling of disillusionment manifested in the low turnout of last year’s local government election.

The disillusionment can possibly explain why less than half feel that elections are free and fair or are expressing the will of the people – these are basic features of a democracy that are not obvious to South Africans and also not clear to young South Africans. Even more worrying is the opinion that, despite the assurances of the South African constitution, only just more than a third agrees that all South Africans have equal rights.

Looking forward, a similar proportion of young people and all South Africans (45%) expressed the view that they have confidence in a happy future for people of all population groups in this country. Although this is not exactly a low score, it is disappointing that less than half of people feel this way.

All in all, these findings support a view that the “democratic project” in South Africa needs a lot more positive support – from civil society, from concerned South Africans, but also from government.

Technical Detail
  • A total of 3,600 personal interviews were conducted with South Africans, 18 years and older.
  • A multistage randomly stratified sampling approach was used.
  • The Margin of Error (depending on sample size, response rate and sampling methodology used) on this sample is between 0.5 and 1.67 percentage points on a 95% confidence level.
  • The results are weighted and projected to the adult South African population and are representative of the views of this universe.

Society