Hope for a Better Future: Young People’s (im)Mobility in Pretoria Central, South Africa

  • Marlize RabeEmail author
  • Ignatius Swart
  • Stephan de Beer
Part of the Perspectives on Children and Young People book series (PCYP, volume 6)


Young people in South Africa are not equally affected by unemployment and precarious living conditions and, given the racialized past of the country, it is not surprising that race and class play influential roles in young people’s life chances. High unemployment figures and limited targeted social assistance programmes exacerbate the difficult circumstances under which young people live. NEET (not in employment, education or training) serves as an indicator of marginalisation in South Africa and underscores the precariousness among different categories of young people in the country. Pretoria, one of the urban centres in South Africa, attracts many such young people. Employing a life course perspective, we conducted three focus groups and qualitative individual interviews with 24 young people in Pretoria. Mobility, including migration, emerged as a survival strategy employed by young people. Moving within the city or between the city and nearby towns is a way of life for many participants. In some cases, the responsibilities towards specific family members form a driving force for survival and a point of orientation. But others became stuck within a geographical area and particular life circumstances, resulting in a breakdown of all relationships with family members and a loss of place.


Youth studies Mobility Migration NEET South Africa Life course perspective 


  1. Altbeker, A., & Bernstein, A. (2017). No country for young people: The crisis of youth unemployment and what to do about it. Johannesburg: Centre for Development and Enterprise.Google Scholar
  2. Butler-Adam, J. (2013). Generation J. South African Journal of Science, 109(5/6), 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Creamer, T. (2013). “NEETs crisis” emerging as SA’s most urgent challenge. Engineering News, 25 June 2013. Accessed 2 March 2018.
  4. Creswell, T. (2010). Towards a politics of mobility. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 28(1), 17–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. De Beer, S. (2008a). Contesting inner-city space: Global trends, local exclusion/s and an alternative Christian spatial praxis, Missionalia: Southern African Journal of Mission Studies, 36(2_3):181–207.Google Scholar
  6. De Beer, S. (2008b). Urban South Africa: An opportunity for liberating theological education. Missionalia, 40(3), 251–277.Google Scholar
  7. De Beer, S., & Vally, R. (2015). Pathways out of homelessness. Research Report. Pretoria: University of Pretoria.Google Scholar
  8. De Lannoy, A. (2017). The UCT poverty and inequality initiative’s Youth Explorer: Understanding youth well-being at the small area level. Paper prepared for the Centre for Development and Enterprise’s youth unemployment project, August 2017. Accessed 3 March 2018.
  9. Department of Higher Education and Training. (2017). Fact sheet on “NEETs”. Pretoria: DHET.Google Scholar
  10. Elder, G. H. (1994). Time, human agency, and social change: Perspectives on the life course. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57(1), 4–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fuller, M. G., & Low, M. (2017). Introduction: An invitation to spatial sociology. Current Sociology Monograph, 65(4), 469–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Furlong, A. (2006). Not a very NEET solution: Representing problematic labour market transitions among early school-leavers. Work, Employment & Society, 20(3), 553–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gauteng City-Region Observatory. (n.d.). The Gauteng City-Region, Accessed 15 June 2017.
  14. Graham, L., De Lannoy, A. (2016). Youth unemployment: What can we do in the short run? Cape Town: Econ3X3.Google Scholar
  15. Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grelotti, D. J., et al. (2014). Whoonga: Potential recreational use of HIV antiretroviral medication in South Africa. AIDS and Behavior, 18(3), 511–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hall, K., & Posel, D. (2018). Fragmenting the family? The complexity of household migration strategies in post-apartheid South Africa. WIDER Working Paper 2018/8. Accessed 20 February 2018.
  18. Hall, K., Ebrahim, A., De Lannoy, A., & Makiwane, M. (2015). Youth and mobility: Linking movement to opportunity’. In A. De Lannoy, S. Swartz, L. Lake, C. Smith (eds.), South. African Child Gauge 2015: Youth and the intergenerational transmission of poverty, 75–82, Cape Town: Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town.Google Scholar
  19. Holte, B. H., Swart, I., & Hiilamo, H. (2019). The NEET concept in comparative youth research: The Nordic countries and South Africa. Journal of Youth Studies, 22(2), 256–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heinz, W. R. (2003). Theoretical roots of the life course perspective. In W. R. Heinz & V. W. Marshall (Eds.), Social dynamics of the life course (pp. xi–xix). New York: Aldine De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  21. Jaffe, R., Klaufus, C., & Colombijn, F. (2012). Mobilities and mobilizations of the urban poor. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 36(4), 643–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Knijn, T., & Patel, L. (2017). Family life and family policy in South Africa: Responding to past legacies, new opportunities and challenges. In T. Rostgaard & G. B. Eydal (Eds.), Family life and family policy in South Africa: dealing with the legacy of apartheid and responding to new opportunities and challenges. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  23. Kraak, A. (2013). State failure in dealing with the NEET problem in South Africa: Which way forward? Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 18(1–2), 77–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lings, K. (2013). Youth unemployment is a national crisis. Standpoint, 2, 7–8. Accessed 2 March 2018.
  25. Lolwana, P. (2014). South Africa country report for the 2014 ministerial conference on youth employment: How to improve, through skills development and job creation, access of Africa’s youth to the world work, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 21–23 July 2014, Johannesburg: Researching Education and Labour (REAL) centre, University of Witwatersrand.Google Scholar
  26. Manyaka-Boshielo, S. J. (2017). Exploring possibilities of social entrepreneurial activities as a tool to reduce unemployment amongst churches in Tshwane Central and Mamelodi East: Pretoria case study. HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, 73(3), a4706. Scholar
  27. Marshall, V. W., & Mueller, M. M. (2003). Theoretical roots of the life course perspective. In W. R. Heinz & V. W. Marshall (Eds.), Social dynamics of the life course (pp. 3–32). New York: Aldine De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  28. Meagher, K. (2013). Unlocking the informal economy: A literature review on linkages between formal and informal economies in developing countries. Manchester: Wiego Working Paper No 27.Google Scholar
  29. Mlatsheni, C., & Ranchhod, V. (2017). SA’s lost generation: Youth with no jobs and no hope. Business Day, 6 September 2017. Accessed 3 March 2018.
  30. Ntakirutimana, E. (2017). Precarious housing in the Salvokop neighbourhood: a challenge to churches in the inner city of Tshwane. HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, 73(3), a4721. Scholar
  31. Orsmond, E., Cloete, A., Le Roux, E., & McDonald, Z. (2018). NEET young people in Franschhoek: A story of continued separatedness. Unpublished chapter submitted for the YOMA project manuscript, Stuck in the Margins? Young People and Faith-based Organisations in South African and Nordic Localities. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  32. Rabe, M. (2017). Family policy for all South African families. International Social Work, 60(5), 1189–1200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ribbens, M., & De Beer, S. (2017). Churches claiming a right to the city? Lived urbanisms in the City of Tshwane. HTS Theological Studies/Teologiese Studies, 73(3), a4690. Scholar
  34. Shanahan, M. J. (2000). Pathways to adulthood in changing societies: Variability and mechanisms in life course perspective. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 667–692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smith, R. D. (2015). Introduction. In: R. D. Smith, W. Ackah, A. G. Reddie, R. S. Tshaka (eds) Contesting Post-Racialism: Conflicted Churches in the U.S. and South Africa. Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, p 3–12.Google Scholar
  36. Standing, G. (2011). The precariat: The new dangerous class. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  37. Statistics South Africa. (2011). Census 2011. Pretoria: StatsSA.Google Scholar
  38. Statistics South Africa. (2017). Quarterly Labour Force Survey. Quarter, 2. Pretoria: StatsSA.Google Scholar
  39. Statistics South Africa. (n.d.). City of Tshwane, Accessed 8 February 2018.
  40. Swart, I. (2013). Youth at the margins: Introducing a new research initiative in an ongoing south-north collaboration in the context of international diaconia. Diaconia, 4(1), 2–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Todes, A., Kok, P., Wentzel, M., Van Zyl, J., & Cross, C. (2010). Contemporary South African urbanization dynamics. Urban Forum, 21, 331–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Watson, J. (2011). Understanding survival sex: Young women, homelessness and intimate relationships. Journal of Youth Studies, 14(6), 639–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Watson, J., & Cuervo, H. (2017). Youth homelessness: A social justice approach. Journal of Sociology, 53(2), 461–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wazimap (n.d.) City of Tshwane. Accessed 4 February 2018.
  45. Yates, S., & Payne, M. (2006). Not so NEET? A Critique of the use of ‘NEET’ in setting targets for interventions with young people. Journal of Youth Studies, 9(3), 329–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marlize Rabe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ignatius Swart
    • 2
    • 3
  • Stephan de Beer
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Religion and TheologyUniversity of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Faculty of Theology, Diaconia and Leadership StudiesVID Specialized UniversityOsloNorway
  4. 4.Centre for Contextual Ministry in the Faculty of Theology, University of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations