The "Born Free Generation" in South Africa: Vulnerabilities and Aspirations -- CANCELLED

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: F205
Ariane DE LANNOY , The Children's Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Katherine NEWMAN , Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
Almost twenty years after the end of apartheid, South Africa remains one of the world’s most unequal countries. Despite promises of a ‘better life for all’, racial and class inequalities continue to shape young people’s identities, life chances and dreams for the future. ‘Black’ and ‘Coloured’ youth are especially vulnerable, with high levels of school drop-out, unemployment and large numbers of ‘discouraged work seekers’. The situation has given rise to a new moral panic around the country’s exceptionally large youth cohort. Yet little is understood about how ordinary young South Africans experience their reality of un(der)employment in the context of transformation and promises about upward mobility. This paper draws on 18 months of ethnographic research with 6 young South Africans of the so-called “Born Free generation” in the Western Cape. The study provides rich insights into the participants’ current life trajectories and their families’ background. Detailed family histories enable us to unravel how differences in racial categories, geographical location, and class influenced the decisions people made at the time of the transition. Such decisions continue to affect the socio- economic position of many young people today. In-depth research also enables us to focus on individual trajectories, for example, in the search for employment. The paper describes detailed trajectories in search of work and the “saw tooth” patterns of youth transitions through employment stages. The discussion identifies gaps in our understanding of life with long term unemployment or constant short term employment, problematizing the ways in which employment or unemployment are generally measured and the category of young adults “Not in any kind of Employment, Education or Training”. The work notes severe psycho-social consequences for young adults in un(der)employment, and offers detailed insights that are relevant to policy discussions about a Basic Income Grant or Youth Wage Subsidy in South Africa.