Ticking Time Bomb or Demographic Dividend? Youth and Reconciliation in South Africa

“This year’s report on the results of round 12 of the Reconciliation Barometer survey offers some deeper insights into the views, opinions and beliefs of young South Africans, particularly around the issues of political participation, the economy, understanding of the country’s past and the apartheid legacy, and relationships between people of different historically defined race groups. Youth views on reconciliation are the subject of significant interest and debate, both within the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) and in South Africa broadly, but have been a challenge to report on as the so-called ‘born free’ generation has only begun reaching the age of majority required to participate in the Reconciliation Barometer and other surveys. Much of the data analysed in subsequent sections of this report is examined through different lenses, including according to age groups, socioeconomic status and living conditions, and race. Some
indicators have yet to show any significant difference between the views of older and younger generations. However, some emerging
and critical trends are evident, as are signals of political and social change that may be yet to come. Certainly, we do want our youth to become a demographic dividend that contributes to both the economic and social future of the country. However, a critical conclusion emerging out of this year’s round of the Reconciliation Barometer is that if in focusing on current economic challenges we underestimate the simultaneous imperative of actively growing inclusivity, unity, national values and better social relationships, we in fact risk a more divided and fragmented country in the future. And that, as predicted, may prove a ticking time bomb.”