Youth Well-Being and Social Exclusion in South Africa

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Ariane DE LANNOY, University of Cape Town, South Africa
This paper interrogates the concept of youth well-being in post-apartheid South Africa as applied in the country’s youth development policies. Concerns around large groups of ‘socially excluded’ youth dominate the public and policy discourses in South Africa. Since the 1990s, a string of national and provincial youth-oriented policies has attempted to respond to this ‘exclusion’. However, a growing body of longitudinal survey data indicate little or no change in the dominant measures of youth exclusion. This paper presents a brief overview of the concepts of ‘well-being’ and ‘social exclusion’, followed by an examination of these notions in the context of policy efforts to address youth deprivation. The 2015 National Youth Development Policy is used as a case study. The paper then draws on qualitative data on the lived experiences of youth in South Africa to highlight gaps and inconsistencies in the policy's dominant interpretation of 'well-being' and 'exclusion'. It indicates that youth well-being and exclusion seem to be understood mainly in terms of deficiencies in the individual fields of educational attainment and employment, or, at the levels of the family and community, as 'dysfunctions'. The paper argues that it is exactly these inconsistencies that continue to drive the symbolic and experienced exclusion of South African youth.