Why Is Youth Unemployment So Intractable in South Africa? A Synthesis of Evidence at the Micro-Level

Ariane De Lannoy, Lauren Graham, Leila Patel, Murray Leibbrandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


South Africa is faced with persistently high youth unemployment levels, despite significant investments into a variety of Active Labour Market Programmes across the government, private and civil society sectors. The intractable nature of the challenge called for a systematic synthesis of evidence to better understand what contributes to the issue, and inform policy and programmatic direction. We undertook a systematic and robust synthesis of existing evidence published between 1994 and 2018 concerning the factors that contribute to this complex problem. This enabled us to consider evidence that exists within disciplinary siloes but rarely brought to bear simultaneously on the issue, consider where the balance of evidence lies and what gaps remain in our understanding of the challenge, and point to the important role that evidence synthesis methods can play in informing planning. A key finding is that emphasis remains on supply-side features of the labour market, with little attention paid to the behaviour of employers, and that the gendered nature of the labour market is poorly understood in relation to youth. The lessons learned from the South African context may be important when considering other middle-income contexts with similar youth unemployment challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-131
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Applied Youth Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Active Labour Market Policies
  • Evidence synthesis
  • Middle-income country
  • South Africa
  • Youth unemployment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Anthropology
  • Cultural Studies


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