The determinants of employment status of young graduates from a South African University
Mncayi, Nombulelo Precious
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There has been a debate regarding the extent of graduate unemployment in South Africa and how it has affected the youth. The main focus of this study was therefore to identify the determinants of employment status among graduates, particularly the length of unemployment endured by young graduates in South Africa. The focus on graduates was necessary, given the understanding that once one has a university degree, the opportunities to get a job are assumed to be high. It was also on the premise of the substantial resources that are invested in higher education with the hope of a higher return. The objectives of the study were categorised into theoretical and empirical. The theoretical objectives were: to define unemployment and graduate unemployment, review literature on various types of unemployment, conduct a review on the problem of youth unemployment from a global, regional and South African perspective, review the trend of graduate unemployment in South Africa, and evaluate the factors that affect graduate unemployment. The empirical objectives were: to determine the average time it takes a graduate to find employment measured in months, assess if the employed graduates are employed in their fields of study, determine if degree choice plays a significant role in the employment prospects of graduates and to establish the personal and social economic factors that determine the employment status of graduates in South Africa. In achieving these objectives, a quantitative research method was adopted. The study used 233 questionnaires collected via an online survey that was circulated to the alumni database of the university in question. The study employed descriptive, cross tabulation and a regression analysis to achieve the set empirical objectives. The study had a well-balanced gender distribution with females making up 58% of the sample and males 42%. The average time it took graduates in the sample to find employment after graduation was seven months. Further analysis revealed that out of the graduates that were employed, more than 70% were employed in their fields of study with about 27% in jobs that they did not study for. Additional analysis to determine the state of the graduate’s current job showed that many of them were in jobs below their desired field, suggesting a problem of under-employment. The results from the regression analysis indicated that age, race, field of study, major module and job searching skills were significant predictors of unemployment length. Religion, gender, and marital status were not significant in this regard. The study indicated that 11.2% of the surveyed graduates were unemployed and the majority were between the age of 21 and 24, implying that young graduates are more likely to be unemployed than their older counterparts. Many of those who were unemployed had qualifications in Humanities with majors in the arts subjects. The average job waiting period was also found to be the highest for graduates with these arts majors. An analysis was also done on the perceptions about graduate unemployment. The results showed that surveyed graduates perceived the lack of job market information, lack of job experience and not having political connections as some of the factors that influence graduate unemployment. In contrast, age, race, self-confidence and higher education institution attended were perceived as factors not having any influence on unemployment among graduates. The study therefore concluded that the most important factors affecting graduate unemployment are qualifications and majors held by graduates, which seem not to be aligned with labour market requirements. This provides an opportunity for higher education institutions to collaborate with the government and private sector to bridge the gap that exists in academia and the world of work. Further analysis can be done on a broader scale by increasing the sample size and doing the same study at several universities in Gauteng.