Youth and the work/housing nexus in Ethiopia and South Africa

The Youth and the work/housing nexus in Ethiopia and South Africa is a collaborative research project between the University of Sheffield (UK), The University of Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) and The University of Hawassa (Hawassa, Ethiopia).

Funded by the British Academy under their Youth Futures funding scheme, the project commenced in March 2020 and ended in February 2023. The team are busy presenting their findings at conferences & policy workshops, and are working on published outputs.

What is the context for this project and what is the project focusing on?

Ethiopia and South Africa’s youth experience high unemployment and lack affordable housing. Ethiopia recently invested in Africa’s largest industrial complex in Hawassa, yet low wages and scarce housing prohibits sustainable futures for young workers. Labour turnover is very high. Young people are often well educated, but can’t secure employment.

In contrast, in South Africa, wavering historic investment in Ekandustria in Bronkhorstspruit, a former industrial decentralisation site, means high youth unemployment. Successful provision of state housing means some youth are housed, but cannot afford living costs.

Faced with this wicked problem youth respond creatively to manage these near-impossible fluid conditions. The relationship between youth, work and housing is under-theorised, particularly in terms of youth and state/private sector’s responses.

Focusing on these two cases of state intervention, this study examines the youth work/housing nexus, asking how this nexus is experienced, what are the key challenges, what are the responses of youth and state/private sector actors, and what are the implications for youth futures and urban sustainability.