Significantly high youth unemployment rates have become a prominent economic and social feature around the globe. The situation from a South African perspective has reached critical stages with an ominously high and increasing number of unemployed youth contributing to excessive poverty and inequality levels. Whilst concerns surrounding their inability to access decent employment opportunities have become prominent, the longevity of the cohort’s failure to secure work has undoubtedly become the leading trepidation for the country’s economic development objectives. Academic discourse surrounding the issue has continuously emphasised the potential scarring effects for young people, reiterating the loss of valuable future human capital levels as well as the risk of social exclusion. Despite these concerns, evidence, especially from developing regions, as to what drives long-term unemployment among the cohort still remain novel, necessitating analyses on both the demographic and work-related factors contributing to the situation. As such, the primary objective of the study was to identify the main microeconomic drivers of long-term youth unemployment in South Africa. A quantitative approach and cross-sectional research design were employed by using secondary data obtained from Statistics South Africa’s 2019 Quarterly Labour Force Survey. The sample comprised a total of 4544 unemployed job seekers. The statistical analysis included the use of descriptive statistics, cross-tabulations and the use of a binary logistic regression. The study’s findings revealed the long-term nature surrounding cohort’s unemployment to be affected by an array of factors. Amongst the more prominent of these included a lack of experience, skill mismatches and an underlining preference amongst the cohort for highly job secure work opportunities. In addition to this, various inter-regional disparities, high job search costs and low social capital levels all seemed to increase the likelihood of being unemployed for longer than 12 months. Henceforth, addressing this situation necessitates a multi-pronged approach. This requires the creation of a sustainable and inclusive economic growth path that stimulates the demand for a variety of skills in various sectors. Moreover, government at all levels should exude a strong political will to enhance the current education system and create an enabling environment in which much needed public-private sector partnership formation can take place. The latter should specifically seek to provide quality work-integrated learning programmes that promote the development of both soft and technical skills, smoothing the successful transition of the cohort to the labour market.
Keywords: Youth, unemployment, long-term, South Africa, labour market.