Taking to the streets is nothing new in South Africa.
Hawkers do it, beggars do it and protestors who are trying to get government’s attention do it.
What is new though, is the rising number of desperate South African graduates taking to the streets to highlight the challenges of getting work.
They say the key to success is education, but when finding work or starting your own business is this challenging, it’s downright discouraging.
It has become absolutely normal for people to start losing hope.
We fight for a decent education, funding and then graduate despite the odds.
But then we are forced to fight for employment. It’s a never-ending cycle.
I spent three months searching for work after graduating. I was top of my class and eager to learn, but jobs were scarce and most companies were looking for the impossible – young, dynamic individuals with experience.
*I admit, three months pales in comparison to the time some graduates have spent in search of work.
How does a graduate ever step into the job market if entry-level jobs call for two to three years’ experience and you owning a car?
So many companies are looking for individuals with experience or those they can exploit by offering them unpaid internships – so what happens to the rest of us entering the job market?
This is what happens – #HireAGraduate starts trending on Twitter.
Now graduates, dressed in their graduation gowns, have also taken to the streets in the Eastern Cape, to highlight their plight.
I’m certain none of them ever imagined that after graduating, they would be advertising their qualifications on the side of a road in the hopes of a potential employer snatching them up.
Those armchair critics, the ones who still say “them” and “us”, might say: “Well I managed to find work, because instead of complaining I got up and did something.”
The difference now, is that they were more often than not, born into privilege. Their mothers and fathers are CEOs and business owners, with people around every corner ready to “hook them up”.
The privilege these armchair critics enjoy has debilitated black communities for years and has left a legacy that still disadvantages people of colour 23 years into democracy.
Black graduate numbers are up. There’s been a large expansion of black graduates in recent years – but has this exacerbated graduate unemployment in our country? Research says no.
Research by Hendrik van Broekhuizen’s indicates graduate unemployment in South Africa is neither high, nor rising rapidly over time.
His research shows that much of the observed inter-racial variation in graduate unemployment rates may be explained by differences in the types of higher education institutions that different race groups have historically been likely to attend.
As people of colour, we have to be more and do more before we are even considered worthy of being hired, while our white peers are hired and celebrated for mediocrity.
The Employment Equity Commission for South Africa’s 2015/16 report, reveals that whites are massively over-represented in the private sector, accounting for 72.4% of all top management positions – compared to the public sector, which has 73.2% black African representation.
In South Africa, whites still earn more than blacks, despite the fact that blacks account for 80% of our 55million population and whites little over 8%.
There is also a shocking pay disparity between black and white professionals who occupy the same position. Much research has been done on this and the findings are harrowing.
These are my lived experiences and the experiences of so many like me.
The playing fields are just not levelled. But when will this change?