There are over a billion young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 years in the world. It is estimated that 85% of these young working-age adults live in developing countries which offer few opportunities for productive work. One of the greatest challenges facing the world and South Africa is to enhance the skills level of young people in developing countries. Young people in South Africa account for approximately 60% of the working age population and also account for 70% of all unemployed persons in South Africa. In order to address both the problem of low skills level and the rising unemployment level, the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) can be used as a starting point. History has shown that labour-intensive methods of production (labour-intensive traditional methods) have long been used in creating remarkable infrastructure projects. Investment in infrastructure has a huge potential to redress the high unemployment and poverty levels in South Africa and also to correct the skills deficits in disadvantaged communities. From a theoretical perspective, supported by experience elsewhere in Africa, there are reasons for considering that properly formulated labour-intensive public works programmes and projects could be established to construct and maintain the required physical infrastructure, thus creating employment, skills and institutional capacities. This paper will explore the past African experiences in implementing public works programmes and projects with regard to their successes and problems. The paper will then examine how initiatives such as skills development and the Expanded Public Works Programmes (EPWP) can be used to address the low skills level and the rising level of unemployment in South Africa. The paper closes with some recommendations for skills development in the future.
Key words: Labour-intensive, public works, poverty, unemployment, skills.
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