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Opinion - The transition: unemployed youth and social support

2020-12-02  Staff Reporter

Opinion - The transition: unemployed youth and social support

*Saara Meke Amakali

The life period of young adulthood is often characterised by high instability and major life changes, such as the transition from education to finding stable employment. 

The general purpose of tertiary education is to train and equip individuals with the necessary skills to join the labour market. As for graduates, employment is a source of financial security. It provides them with the opportunity to fulfil a social and family role, which is a key prerequisite for both physical and mental health. 

Although having their tertiary qualifications under their belts, unemployment remains a major social problem. 
The main premise of writing this piece is to discuss related unemployment elements that frequently cause a feeling of failure among the youth, which in turn leads to depression. By figuring those elements out, we can collectively strengthen our social support forms towards each other. Financial distress, low self-esteem, and also family and societal pressures associated with job-seeking act as potential mediators of depression. 

Financial hardship is considered to be one of the main pathways through which unemployment status leads to depression. Unemployed individuals are normally not able to provide basic necessities for themselves because in most cases financial support ends when they complete their studies. They also want to live what is termed “a normal life”: a job, money to pay their living expenses, a social status, and an easier social life. Being rejected numerously after applying for a job, hurts and this often contributes to low self-esteem. 

Societal attitudes sometimes imply that the unemployed are lazy and do not want to work, which affects people’s attitudes of themselves. The stigma of shame (the shame of not being employed) consequently leads to depression because unemployed individuals end up feeling that they do not live up to the expectations of society. Therefore, the lack of a paid job can alter not only one’s ability to build an identity and a social status but also one’s psychological well-being.
The positive side of being unemployed is that one can become more creative and resourceful. Many unemployed graduates are now involved in network marketing in order to earn an income while searching for employment in their field of study. Even though network marketing is a great move, some individuals still struggle with entry capital and of course, not everyone has the required skills. 

The number of demoralizing factors that come with unemployment, allowed me to stress some mechanisms linking social support to the psychological well being of unemployed youth. We should always try and maintain social participation. There are instances whereby unemployed individuals are excluded from social meetings just because they cannot contribute financially. This practice produces a feeling of isolation. 

Research shows that there are higher levels of happiness in those who are socially integrated. 
Providing the necessary financial support and assisting unemployed individuals to find a job is very crucial. Family members and friends can also help prepare application forms or administrative documents. We should collectively instil a culture of providing the necessary materials, psychological, and moral resources that could compensate for the distress caused by unemployment. It is important to understand that individuals’ value emotional support more compared to material help. 

To the young individuals that are job hunting, keep your head up high, find routines to stay busy and even find part-time work until something permanent comes around. “Get a job, not necessarily the job.”

*Saara Meke Amakali is an Industrial Psychology and Sociology graduate. 
Email her at 

2020-12-02  Staff Reporter

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