The Bureau of Market Research (BMR) at the University of South Africa (Unisa) recently released a research report regarding the sociodemographic profile of South African youth (14- 24 years). The study shows similar gender profiles for youths’ educational attainment but highlights clear population differentials in terms of access to medical aid, formal housing and toilet facilities. With regard to the latter, especially young Black/African youth largely trail regarding access to these service types.

According to Professor Joshua Kembo (BMR Associate Professor), one in every ten youth in South Africa lives in a traditional dwelling, while a similar proportion (11.7%) is at risk with regard to consuming unsafe water that consequently exposes this segment to waterborne infections such as dysentery, typhoid, diarrhoea and cholera. Although almost six in every ten youth live in a household with a flush toilet, just more than a third (36.3%) still lives in a household with access to a pit toilet. It was further observed from the BMR study that 3.7% of South African youth do not have access to any type of toilet facility. This result has far-reaching implications since the absence of hygienic toilet facilities is a precursor to major communicable diseases, which in turn pose a threat to public health.

The BMR report also reveals fascinating and interesting secondary education analysis of the SA youth cohort (12 – 24 years). In this regard the research outlines clear regional differences regarding tuition fees and lack of books in particular. Overall, almost a third (31.9%) of youth who attended education institutions did not pay tuition fees, with provincial differentials ranging from 10.5% for the Western Cape to 59.0% for Limpopo. According to Prof Kembo, approximately a third of youth finds it difficult to pay their school fees and it appears that Mpumalanga (12.5%), KwaZulu-Natal (7.9%), Western Cape (7.7%) and Limpopo (6.4%) in recent years experienced the biggest challenge regarding the lack of school books. When further reflecting on the problems experienced by the 14 – 24-year youth age-cohort regarding secondary education, the BMR report reveals that the Eastern and Northern Cape Provinces mostly lack teachers. This finding is most distressing given the number of teachers recently resigning from secondary schools.

Overall, the BMR report presents an overview of the health and home environments of South African youth, which serves as a good basis for future youth development programmes in South Africa.

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The BMR report no 450 entitled, ‘Socio-demographic profile of youth in South Africa’, was compiled by Professor Joshua Kembo (BMR Associate Professor) and is available from the Bureau of Market Research.