When well over half a million South Africans, mostly aged between 18 and 34, apply for work that can see them facing life threatening situations it is another pointer to the “depth and magnitude of the country’s youth unemployment crisis”.
This year the SA Police Service (SAPS) received over 530 000 applications from young people wanting to enlist and at the same time the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) evaluated over 133 000 applications for its Military Skills Development system. A paltry 1 704 or just over 1.2% of the applicants now find themselves doing basic military training (BMT) at air force, army, military medical service and navy bases. Indications are the police will take around 14 000 of the 530 000 applications.
Michael Cardo, Democratic Alliance (DA) labour spokesman, called the number of applications “staggering” adding it was another indicator “South Africa is sitting on a ticking time bomb with the number of young people not at school, in employ or training”.
Heloise Jordaan of the Freedom Front Plus said poor governance and reckless policy were major causes of unemployment and the reason why thousands applied for only a limited number of vacancies in the national defence force and the police service.
African Defence Review (ADR) director Darren Olivier said the high number of applicants was “inevitable”.
“In any country with high levels of youth unemployment, it’s inevitable many will apply to join the military or police. They are likely doing so out of desperation rather than an inherent desire to be a soldier or police officer.”
He pointed out some who enter the military “just for employment” could find themselves enjoying it to the extent of “moving up the ranks and excelling”. He sees good training and discipline as major contributors to making the MSD system work properly and eventually adding value to the SANDF.
“It requires clear identification during the MSD period of those without motivation so they can be separated at the end of the cycle, combined with keen eyes during recruitment to take on those who seem to have capacity to adapt.”
MSD apart, Olivier would like to see more done by the SANDF in recruiting better educated people to fill technical positions, such as systems engineers.
He points out the SANDF is competing against the private sector in this regard where higher salaries are the norm.
“Nonetheless it is important to find and recruit people who will fit into the military and not feel cut off from better opportunities,” he said adding that it was a challenge the Department of Defence (DoD) has to face up to.