graduate unemployment

Struggles faced by unemployed graduates in South Africa

Every student looks forward to the day when they can toss their graduation cap in the air and walk out with a qualification in hand.

The gruelling and almost intimidating years spent in tertiary education is a period in time one can never forget because of the hardships and value it upholds. Young hopefuls look forward to fruitful and rewarding work experience after they graduate but things have been rather bleak for many.

According to Statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate of graduates was at 31% for the first quarter of 2019 and the numbers haven’t gotten any better. Graduates have qualifications, but no hope of employment or career development.

What happens to young people after they graduate?

Lindokuhle Tshema, a Journalism graduate from the rural Eastern Cape says:

“I was over the moon when I finally completed my studies and knew that I would be the one to rid my family of poverty”.

Lindokuhle is a daughter of a domestic worker and shares a small home with 5 siblings. She enrolled at Walter Sisulu University in 2011 after her mom encouraged her to do so. She completed her studies in record time.

“My family was excited when I graduated and I couldn’t wait to settle into a job. I was in high spirits and was filled with optimism,” she said.

Her mom, being a single parent, works hard to provide for them and this has been an aching burden on Lindokuhle who is the eldest of 5 children. It has been nearly 6 years and she hasn’t found work in the field she studied for. Lindokuhle describes her situation as discouraging and mildly depressing. She has worked menial jobs just to make ends meet and has lost the drive to carry on job-hunting.

This is a story of many young graduates in South Africa and things couldn’t be worse at this very moment, considering the pandemic.

How graduates feel about the recruitment process:

Has anyone stopped and asked a graduate about their experiences of job-seeking? Graduates feel like the system has failed them. Some have fortunately been able to find other means of income through self-initiated projects. There are very limited opportunities, if any – where recruiters or experts take time to guide graduates on how to obtain employment at large corporate companies or organisations.

Caption: Thabo, an unemployed Media Studies graduate, had started a soccer team in his township
whilst he waits to be employed. Photograph by Lulama Gaushe


“We don’t understand what recruiters are looking for. Every rejection leave us feeling despondent.”

What is the solution for unemployed graduates?

We need initiatives aimed at unemployed graduates. Pair us with experts to help get our foot in the door. Through these initiatives we are able to pinpoint areas of concern and find ways to determine successful outcomes.  Surely, our lack of experience is not going to be the pinnacle point that determines our future.

With initiatives that support us, we don’t have to desperately apply for any menial job that come our way just to put food on the table.