New web tool to track status of youth

Mandela Initiative newsletter (Issue 1, Nov 2016)


Across South Africa’s 278 municipalities, newly-elected local government officials are expected to settle on a five-year plan for development in their area, known as the Integrated Development Plan. Aimed at improving the quality of life for all people in an area, the plan must consider current conditions and problems and provide a framework for, amongst others, what services and infrastructure are needed. South Africa’s youth are a constituency who require particular support in the interest of development, and planning for their needs has to be a key concern for government. Now, a new interactive web tool that can assist local government to take stock of and track the status of youth has been piloted in the Western Cape. It has potential to help inform comprehensive policies and interventions to support youth development and social inclusion.

WC youth explorer


Importance of measuring deprivation among the youth

Almost 62%[i] of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years are living in households with an income of less than R779 per person per month, which is Statistics South Africa’s rebased upper-bound poverty line.[ii] The situation of these young people is critical, as they find themselves in crucial stages of development, moving from childhood to adolescence, and from youth to adulthood. Interventions that help them through these transitions are key to their future well-being, their children’s well-being, and – more broadly – the country’s well-being and development.

Income poverty is just one dimension of deprivation, though, explains Ariane De Lannoy, a senior researcher at the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town, where she is heading the youth research stream of UCT’s Poverty and Inequality Initiative.


Income poverty is just one dimension of deprivation

“Globally, the literature agrees that issues like unemployment, food insecurity, high exposure to violence, lack of access to quality education and to decent housing all are aspects of deprivation relevant to the youth. But there is currently little coherent understanding about these deprivations and how they intersect in the lives of South Africa’s youth. We also don’t have much analysis of youth-specific poverty data that could show the extent to which dimensions of deprivation change over time and vary from one small, local area to another. It’s for these reasons that we developed the Youth Explorer web tool.”


Small area data foreground pockets of deprivation

The Youth Explorer provides indicators on the education; economic opportunities; family and living environment; health and well-being; and identity, belonging and safety of young people aged 15- to 24-years-old. Drawing on Census 2011 data from Statistics South Africa, provincial government administrative data, and crime data from the South African Police Service, the web tool enables users to view data disaggregated at different geographical levels, from electoral wards to district or local municipalities. Selected indicators can be viewed in charts, tables or maps. The pilot phase focuses on the Western Cape province, with the aspiration of rolling out the tool to include data from other provinces or municipalities.


Aggregate data easily hide stark differences in youth outcomes in different areas

Emily Frame, the data analyst for the Youth Explorer tool, explains its immense value: “Finding ways to track the situation of young people at the small area level is especially important in the context of the high levels of spatial inequality in the country as a whole, and at provincial and city levels. Aggregate data – for example provincial or city averages – easily hide the stark differences in youth outcomes that exist between, for instance, wards or communities. Small area analyses can assist in identifying areas of greatest need and targeting resources more effectively.”


For example: The Youth Explorer shows that ward 54 in the Cape Metropole, spanning the Atlantic Seaboard and including wealthy suburbs like Bantry Bay, Camps Bay, Clifton and Sea Point, has just under 3 000 youths aged 15 – 24 years. In the 20 – 24-year age group, 90% have completed matric or an equivalent or have a higher educational qualification. Grade 9 learners attending school in this ward score an average of 43% in the mathematics systemic test. Just under 14% of the economically- active youth population (15 – 24 years) are unemployed according to the official definition, and 24% according to the expanded definition which includes those who gave up looking for work. Of this ward’s 15 – 24-year-olds, 19% live in households without an employed adult, and 10% of these youth are not in employment, education or training.

In contrast, ward 36, part of Crossroads – one of the city’s largest townships – houses just over 7 300 youths aged 15 – 24 years, of whom only 36% in the 20 – 24-year age group have completed matric or an equivalent or have a higher educational qualification. The average mark for the Grade 9 mathematics systemic test is 20% and between 68% and 75% of the 15 – 24-year-old workforce are unemployed (official definition vs the expanded definition). Forty-three percent of 15 – 24-year-olds live in households without an employed adult, and 45% are not in employment, education or training.


Ward comparison


A multidimensional poverty lens

In Crossroads, 72% of youth live in income-poor households, which are defined as households with an income of less than R779 per person per month.[iii] In ward 54, only 5% of 15- to 24-year-old youth are in the same position. When comparing the two wards’ multidimensional poverty rates, 38% of Crossroad youth in this age group are multidimensionally poor, compared to only 5% of their peers over 20km away in ward 54.

Multidimensional poverty reflects a broader conception of poverty, which takes into account not only income poverty but vulnerabilities in other domains which also impact on well-being – for instance, health and access to basic services. A multidimensional poverty index combines measurements of 11 indicators of youth well-being. A person is considered multidimensionaly poor if simultaneously deprived in at least a third of these 11 indicators.


Tool’s value in practice

Ammaarah Kamish, the director for Policy, Research and Analysis in the Western Cape Department of the Premier affirms that the Youth Explorer tool is quite significant for policy-makers as it enables them to track the situation of youth in specific ward areas.

“It is something that’s definitely needed – it helps us distinguish different places with different needs to plan for specific interventions. While there is lots of information in the Census, one can’t always tap into ward level. This tool allows us to do it, and with the insights we gain, inform policy development – it will help us translate needs into policy for impact.”

Gavin Miller, the director for Research, Population and Knowledge Management in the Western Cape Department of Social Development points out that the Youth Explorer will be useful not only for those who run youth programmes in his department, or for colleagues based at regional offices, but it will also provide non-profit organisations with information for planning their services or interventions.


Work in progress

De Lannoy says that the project has, from the very onset, involved a multidisciplinary group of researchers and policy-makers at the national, provincial and city level, including the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government, and Statistics South Africa. “Conversations are under way with the Government Technical Advisory Team (GTAC) to replicate the work for other provinces or municipalities to provide a strong baseline for further policy implementation and to build data capacity among the regional administrations.”

The project aims to further expand to a mixed-method approach by also bringing in young people’s perspectives to help conceptualise well-being and to create measures of positive youth development.


Visit the Youth Explorer




[i] Statistics South Africa (2011) Census. Pretoria: Stats SA. Analysis by Emily Frame, Poverty and Inequality Initiative, UCT.
[ii] Statistics South Africa (2015) Methodological report on rebasing of national poverty lines and development on pilot provincial poverty lines – Technical Report. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa.
[iii] See note 2 above.


Western Cape government: Ammaarah Kamish and Gavin Miller
Fact-checking and peer review: Haajirah Esau; Ariane De Lannoy, Emily Frame and the Government Technical Advisory Centre's Matt Cullinan and Kirsten Pearson
Images from