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Learnership Stipends: Can Youth Afford to Do Learnerships Now?

Do Learnership Stipends Increase Youth Vulnerability?

Do You Think Learnership Stipends Increase Youth Vulnerability?

learner pay stipend

Learnership Stipends for Youth

Internships, learnerships, and apprenticeships provide stipends as income to unemployed candidates. But, do these programs dehumanize learners when their worth is merely measured by NQF levels?

Young people who are new to the labour market are often vulnerable to exploitation and mistreatment in the workplace. This can occur for a number of reasons such as:

  • a lack of job experience,
  • a lack of knowledge about their rights as workers,
  • and limited social networks and support systems.

Are Low Learnership Stipends Exploitation?

One common way that young workers are taken advantage of is through low pay. New entrants to the labor market may not be aware of the average wages for their industry or job type. As a result, they may accept a lower salary than what is standard. Additionally, some employers may exploit young workers by not paying them for overtime or other hours worked. Or by making deductions from their paychecks for expenses such as uniforms or tools.

learnership stipend

Unfair Treatment Is Exploitation

Young workers often face exploitation due to unjust treatment, particularly in substandard working environments. For example, doing dangerous tasks and enduring extended shifts without sufficient breaks or rest. Furthermore, instances of workplace discrimination or harassment may persist unaddressed due to a lack of knowledge about reporting avenues or seeking aid.

Additionally, unscrupulous recruitment practices can subject young workers to exploitation. Employers may entice them with promises of specific salaries or working conditions. Only for them to discover a stark contrast upon commencing work. Some may even encounter demands for upfront fees for training or other expenses, or find themselves coerced into signing contracts that curtail their rights or bind them to a particular employer.

To safeguard yourself, know your rights and responsibilities within the workplace. This includes understanding what constitutes fair and secure working conditions. Accessing resources and support networks that facilitate navigation of the labour market is also crucial. In case of exploitation or mistreatment on the job, seek help promptly.

Are learnership stipends too low to make a real difference?

Low stipends for unemployed youth can have serious disadvantages for the individuals involved. A few of the ways low stipends can be disadvantageous include:

  1. Financial strain: A low stipend may not be enough to cover the basic needs of young people, such as food, accommodation, and transportation. This can lead to financial strain and stress, which can negatively impact their mental health and well-being.
  2. Lack of incentive: A low stipend may not provide enough financial incentive for young people to participate in the learnership. This can result in low attendance and lack of commitment to the program, which can hinder their ability to acquire the skills and experience they need to secure employment.
  3. Difficulty finding accommodation: In some areas, the cost of living is high. This makes it difficult for young people to find affordable accommodation. Low stipends can make it even harder for them to find a place to live, which can further stress their finances and affect their ability to participate in the job training program.
  4. Inability to save: Low stipends can make it difficult for young people to save money, which can be a critical factor in securing employment in the future. This can make it harder for them to transition from job training programs to full-time employment.
learner pay raise

Impacts Of Low Learnership Stipends On Youth

Low stipends for unemployed youth on job training programs can have serious and long-lasting effects. It is important for our government and other organizations to provide adequate financial support to young people participating in these programs. Youth must acquire the skills and experience they need to secure employment and become self-sufficient.

Stipend amounts are not based on the realistic living conditions of participating youth, many of whom either live independently or must contribute support to households.

Employers who pay learners a stipend can claim back each cent paid, yet stipends are often as low as R1 500 per month or R30 per day.

Learnership Stipends and Black Tax

Youth use this money for food, rent, transport, clothes, toiletries, and the inevitable ‘Black tax’. Contrary to popular corporate belief, all youth do not come from financially privileged homes that can subsidize their participation.

Companies earn BEE Points and rebates while legally contracting the under-35-year market to meet conventional employment requirements in exchange for an obscenely low ‘allowance.’

Perhaps these learners would prefer attending a mainstream tertiary institution. In order to leave discriminatory environments that thrive on vulnerable youth.

Do Learnership Stipends Drive Wages Down?

Are low stipends being used to increase the opportunity for low wages once learners are qualified?

Exit level of learnershipCredit already earned by learnerPercentage of wage to be paid as allowanceMinimum allowance per weekAnnual Increase
Previous year’s minimum allowances per week + CPI (Excluding Owner’s Equivalent Rent)0 – 12035%R204.47Previous years minimum allowances per week + CPI (Excluding Owner’s Equivalent Rent)
121 – 24069%R408.92
NQF 30 – 12017%R204.47
121 – 24040%R385.10
241 – 36053%R630.45
NQF 40 – 12013%R204.47
121 – 24025%R408.92
241 – 36053%R630.45
361 – 48056%R920.09
NQF 5 to 80 – 1208%R204.47
120 – 24018%R442.99
240 – 36027%R662.81
361 – 48038%R933.74
481 – 60049%R1192.70
Reported on SAFLII


Do the stipend rates protect the dignity of our youth and ensure that their well-being is protected?

The following table was taken from

learnership stipends 2011-2015

In conclusion, it is important for our government, employers, and labour organizations to take steps to ensure that young workers are protected from exploitation and mistreatment in the workplace. This includes enforcing labour laws and regulations, providing education and resources to young workers, and supporting initiatives that promote fair and safe working conditions.

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Leonie Hall

Leonie Hall, disruptive thinker and dynamic strategist, is an expert in education, development, quality management and innovation. She has spoken at local and international conferences; and currently works as an independent consultant and content developer. Contact Leonie for a consultation.

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