This report explores potential economic pathways for opportunity youth in the health sector in eThekwini, South Africa.
South Africa’s health system is plagued by numerous systemic challenges, inhibiting its ability to support the country’s demand for health-related services. As with other facets of South African society in 2020, access to and allocation of healthcare resources is quite unequal. The disparities in the distribution of human resources in health between the private and public sector is a serious concern, as the public sector is inadequately resourced.
South Africa has two major national issues: Firstly, the highest HIV prevalence worldwide, with the demographic most affected being young black women. Secondly, a youth unemployment rate of approximately 58.2%. Unemployment in the South African context is often the result of a social trap; young people are unable to get jobs because they lack skills and experience, and in turn unable to gain skills and experience because they can’t secure a job.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by 2030 there will be a global shortage of approximately 18 million health workers resulting in an annual cost of USD 500 billion, and the gap is not only in primary care. Growing populations, rising consumerism, and changing disease profiles are driving demand in allied health jobs, such as pharmacy technicians that rarely require a tertiary degree but can be extremely challenging to fill.
Traditionally, health skilling systems prepare students for a job hierarchy of doctors, nurses, care assistants, and allied health professionals. Investments in health skilling have largely focused on the top of the hierarchy, with less attention to junior workers and allied health. By investing in quality, demand-driven skilling for the latter groups, Global Opportunity Youth Health Pathways (GOYHP), which is being spearheaded by the Aspen Institute’s Global Opportunity Youth Network, aims to support communities in addressing the twin challenges of supplying growing youth populations with quality, career-based employment opportunities while alleviating strain on health systems.
As a starting point to this effort, this landscape assessment aims to define, mobilize and activate pathway offshoots to parallel employing sectors to initiate a multiplier effect that will enable allied health placement programmes in South Africa to achieve economies of scale.