In our economy, where skills and practical experience are of utmost importance, the youth is most vulnerable with their future relying heavily on their job readiness and ability to enter the job market. Much of the debate in South Africa today focuses on ways to facilitate job creation, to narrow income differentials and to redress inequalities in accessing wealth.

The YES (Youth Employment Services) program is one of the first initiatives between government, business and labour created to give one million youth one million opportunities to succeed, while securing South Africa’s economic prosperity. YES makes provision for black unemployed youth to be employed and trained by means of learning and development programmes in the form of non-accredited and accredited training courses.

On 28 August 2018, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) gazetted the YES inclusion in the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Codes of Good Practice. With the implementation of the YES initiative, broad-based transformation has entered a new phase of diversity – it is no longer limited to traditional considerations such as ownership and management but includes a strong emphasis on job creation. The YES programme encourages organisations to contribute to empowerment by addressing youth unemployment and upskilling the youth to gain work experience through job placement. Businesses are rewarded for YES participation with enhanced B-BBEE status levels.

Some critics had argued that the YES programme would merely replace existing accredited training and learnership programmes within organisations and would not correct the structural deficiencies in the South African economy. The final rules for recognising the programme published on August 28, to a large extent, addressed these concerns.

Businesses will be unable to offset existing B-BBEE initiatives against the YES programme. The safeguards built into the B-BBEE Codes for recognition of and participation in the YES programme are that organisations must receive a minimum of 40% on each of the priority elements, or an average of 50% across all priority elements if they miss out on a particular priority element. A further safeguard against offsetting initiatives is that an organisation must maintain or improve its overall B-BBEE status level with the introduction of the YES programme, compared to the level obtained in the preceding year, before participating in YES.

The YES programme for B-BBEE recognition is only available for employing black (Coloured, African, Indian) unemployed youth between the ages of 18 and 35 for at least 12 months on a fixed-term or temporary employment contract.

The persons employed in terms of the programme must be placed in new positions and may not replace existing positions or incumbents. Should a company not have the capacity to host young people, they can still be part of YES. Companies can sponsor the salary for a one-year starter position at an SMME – allowing the company to qualify for B-BBEE recognition, while building SMME capacity and competitiveness.

Although the B-BBEE Codes do not provide for a minimum salary payable to YES employees, it is suggested that such employees be paid at least the national minimum wage, being R3,500 a month. This amount would allow for a 50% tax incentive in terms of the Employee Tax Incentive (ETI), also known as the “youth subsidy”.

Organisations that meet the YES targets will be enhanced by one recognition level on their B-BBEE scorecards on condition that they absorb or offer permanent employment to 2.5% of the YES employees. Those that exceed the target by 1.5% and permanently employ 5% of the target group will receive a one level recognition enhancement and three bonus scorecard points, while those that double the YES target will be enhanced two levels on their B-BBEE scorecards.

In the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa, “Our most grave and most pressing challenge is youth unemployment. It is therefore a matter of great urgency that we draw young people in far greater numbers into productive economic activity.”

For more information on how to register your organisation to become part of the YES programme, please go to


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