Youth highlight life skills as most useful for their job search – UNICEF South Africa U-Report poll

Ahead of International Youth Day, new U-Report poll findings show that children and young people associate communication, problem solving and teamwork skills as essential to improve their opportunities to find work.

11 August 2023
Youth holding hands in a circle
UNICEF South Africa/2023/Moultrie

PRETORIA, South Africa, 11 August 2023 – Twenty-three per cent of respondents to the latest UNICEF South Africa U-Report poll cited life skills as being the most useful to develop in helping them to find work. Vocational training and entrepreneurship development followed closely after, with 19 per cent and 18 per respectively. The poll, released ahead of International Youth Day, focused on issues related to the transition from learning to earning.

To ensure training and skills development programmes are relevant and desirable, 28 per cent of participants noted that paid traineeship opportunities are most important, while 19 per cent highlighted the need to improve their skills for jobs of the future, including the green economy and sustainable livelihoods.

“The importance that children and young people associate with building life skills to support their development should never be underestimated,” said Muriel Mafico, UNICEF South Africa Deputy Representative. “These attributes are essential for everyday life, particularly when combined with quality education and access to practical and relevant skills training that prepares children and youth for the job market of today and the future,” added Mafico.

Life skills, also referred to as soft skills, or socio-emotional skills, help children and young people to become agile, adaptive learners and citizens equipped to navigate life’s challenges. These transferable skills include problem solving, negotiation, managing emotions, empathy, and communication, enabling children to cope with trauma and build resilience in the face of adversity.

UNICEF South Africa supports children and adolescents to develop life skills throughout its work across the education, child protection, health and nutrition and water, sanitation, and hygiene sectors.  

The United Nations International Youth Day is commemorated annually on 12 August to honour and highlight the contributions, endeavours, and ideas of young people to empower them as changemakers. This year the theme for the Day is ‘Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World’.

Despite the growing recognition of the relevance of green economy skills and efforts toward driving uptake, global evidence suggests a shortage of such skills among young people. ‘The net zero generation’ 2020 report produced by UNICEF and PwC, as part of the Generation Unlimited initiative, noted that if current trends persist, by 2030 more than 60 per cent of young people globally may lack the skills required to thrive in the green economy.

The U-Report poll also showed that 30 per cent of young respondents think the agriculture sector provides the most work opportunities in their community, with public services at 15 per cent and transport at 12 per cent the next biggest options. Challenges related to finding a job included 28 per cent of participants stating that pressure to help at home affected their job search and 27 per cent who cited a lack of career coaching and support on how to access relevant work as being key issues.

Notes to editors:

More than 11,200 U-Reporters participated in the U-Report poll, with 57 per cent of respondents aged between 15 and 30-years. Some 58 per cent of respondents were male and 42 per cent female.

U-Report is a platform managed by UNICEF South Africa to encourage youth participation and helps children and young people to have a voice on issues that matter to them and to access information, tools and services to influence positive social change.

Media contacts

Toby Fricker
Chief of Communication & Partnerships
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 61 418 7486


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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