Labour market transition and experiences of unemployed graduates: An exploratory study

Keywords: labour market, graduate employability, Black graduates, school-to-work transition, career ecosystem theory, narrative inquiry.


Young people in countries such as South Africa are finding it difficult to make a successful school-to-work transition. This is exacerbated by high unemployment and uncertainty in the labour market. The South African government appears to be trying to implement a range of strategies and approaches to try and assist unemployed graduates. However, the onus is also on the graduate to look for ways in dealing with the uncertain labour market. The purpose of this research was to investigate the labour market transition and experiences of unemployed graduates within the context of high unemployment in South Africa. The research utilised an interpretivist philosophy hinging on the qualitative approach, and it used an exploratory research design. Further, a longitudinal technique was employed, tracing over a period of two years the labour market experiences and transitions of a sample of 30 graduates who had been enrolled at a historically disadvantaged higher education institution in South Africa. Data was collected from focus group discussions and unstructured individual interviews over this two-year period. The findings obtained through structural narrative analysis revealed that the labour market transition and experiences of the unemployed graduates were not negative only; some of the graduates had used their own resourceful techniques to deal with challenges. Based on the findings of the research and in view of the uncertain labour market, suggestions were made that would have resonance for not only individuals but also policymakers, career counsellors and institutions of higher learning.

Author Biography

Dr Tinashe Harry, University of Fort Hare

Post-doctoral fellow