South African youth are civically engaged and increasingly well educated, but they face poor job prospects and security risks.
South Africa is at the lower end of the Index's youth wellbeing continuum, reflective of its scores within the economic opportunity, health, and safety and security domains. South Africa does very well in the citizen participation and education domains.
High rates of youth volunteering (26 percent), no age minimum to run for office, and the existence of a national youth policy all buoy the country’s citizen participation rank to 6th.
At 19 percent, South Africa has the 6th highest level of public spending on education as a percentage of total government expenditures. Ninety-nine percent of youth are literate, and 94 percent enroll in secondary school. However, lower secondary completion rates hover around 75 percent.
Second from the bottom, South Africa’s economic opportunity scores are very low. Youth unemployment (53 percent) and a large proportion of youth not in education, employment or training (31 percent) explain the country’s rank. The country's youth unemployment rates have remained well above the world average for decades and continue to increase. The macro measures of economic performance are better. Among Index countries, South Africa is mid-range for GDP per capita (US$7,593) and competitiveness (15th).
In the safety and security domain, South Africa scores relatively low on internal peace. Further, among Index countries, South Africa has the third highest rate of youth interpersonal violence, including gang-related crime. With 58 deaths per 100,000 youth, South Africa is ahead of only Brazil and Colombia in this regard. As a result, the country ranks 24th in the safety and security domain.
South Africa's rank of 27th in the health domain is driven by high rates of youth tobacco use (19 percent) and youth self-harm fatalities (36 per 100,000 youth).
Gender equality is considerably better in South Africa than in other Sub-Saharan African nations in the Index. South Africa scores highly for women's civil liberties, ahead of the United States and United Kingdom.
The Global Millennial Viewpoints Survey
Seventy-nine percent of youth surveyed report high levels of satisfaction with their educational system, a figure that corresponds with the high level of public spending on education in South Africa.
In terms of gender equality, 94 percent of South African youth polled believe that women should have all the same rights as men. This is considerably higher than in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria (each around 80 percent agreement). However, 70 percent of South African women surveyed fear walking alone at night.
Seventy-one percent of young people surveyed in South Africa say their standard of living will be better than that of their parents. This economic optimism contrasts with how young South Africans feel about their government’s interest in them. Eighty-three percent of South African youth polled agree that the government does not care about their wants and needs.