A clash of cultures : exploring the perceptions and experiences of South African youth towards the military as an employer of choice

Smith, Megan (2015-04)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: With the shift to an all-volunteer force and the end of the Cold War, armed forces across the globe are finding it increasingly difficult to attract, recruit and retain the right quantity and quality of recruits in the ranks. Similarly, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has expressed difficulties with recruitment but more so with the ability to attract ‘high calibre’ recruits in order to staff a defence force that is disciplined and technologically advanced. Although this is a consequence of various economic, social and political factors, one of the greatest challenges facing recruiters is the changing work values and preferences of the new millennial generation. As the title of this thesis postulates, evidence from the West suggests a ‘clash’ in values between millennials, who are individualistic, protected, ambitious and self-centred, and the military, which requires conformity, obedience and structure. While there is a vast amount of literature regarding the all-volunteer force and youth values of military service in the West, there is no study of this kind in South Africa. In this study, I aim to fill this void by exploring young South Africans’ perceptions and experiences of military service. As there is no existing literature on the propensity to enlist in South Africa, focus groups and interviews were conducted with high school learners, Military Skills Development System (MSDS) members who have completed one year of military service and recruitment officers who come into contact with school-leavers from across South Africa. These discussions were framed around two broad questions, namely what are the work values of young South Africans and what factors attract young people to or deter them from the military job. The conclusion is reached that the SANDF is not an employer of choice because of various institutional and societal factors. The military job is largely unappealing to young South Africans, who are risk-averse, individualistic and wish to be in close proximity to their families. The culture of the military is also unattractive to the majority who are not receptive to authoritarian regimes that expect unquestioning obedience and discipline and emphasise hegemonic masculine ideals. Besides this, two societal forces have a significant impact on the ability of the ability of the SANDF to attract recruits. The decline in the prestige of the military job and the presence of an ever-growing civilmilitary gap indicate that youth are neither informed about the military nor see the military as a high status job in society. Consequently, the inability of the SANDF to meet recruitment targets can be detrimental to the ability of the SANDF to fulfil its mandate.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Sedert die verskuiwing na weermagte wat geheel en al uit vrywilligers bestaan en die einde van die Koue Oorlog vind gewapende magte wêreldwyd dit steeds moeiliker om voldoende rekrute van die regte kwaliteit te lok, te werf en te behou. Ook die Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Weermag (SANW) ervaar probleme met werwing, maar veral met die vermoë om ‘hoëkaliber’-rekrute te lok na ’n weermag wat gedissiplineer en tegnologies gevorderd is. Hoewel dit die gevolg van verskeie ekonomiese, sosiale en politieke faktore is, is een van die grootste uitdagings vir werwingspersoneel die veranderende werkwaardes en werkvoorkeure van die nuwe milenniumgenerasie. Soos die titel dit stel, dui getuienis uit die Weste op ’n ‘waardekonflik’ tussen hierdie generasie, wat individualisties, beskut, ambisieus en selfgesentreerd is, en die militêr, wat konformiteit, gehoorsaamheid en struktuur vereis. Hoewel daar ’n magdom literatuur oor vrywilligersmagte en jeugwaardes van militêre diens in die Weste bestaan, is geen studie van hierdie aard nog in SuidAfrika onderneem nie. Met hierdie studie wil ek hierdie leemte vul deur jong Suid-Afrikaners se persepsies en ervarings van militêre diens te verken. Aangesien daar geen literatuur bestaan oor geneigdheid om by die weermag in Suid-Afrka aan te sluit nie, is fokusgroepe gehou en onderhoude gevoer met hoërskoolleerders, MSDS-lede wat hul eerste diensjaar voltooi het en werwingsoffisiere wat met landwyd met skoolverlaters in aanraking kom. Hierdie gesprekke is afgegrens deur twee breë vrae, naamlik wat die werkwaardes van jong Suid-Afrikaners is en watter faktore jong mense na of van die militêre werk lok of afstoot. Die gevolgtrekking is dat die SANW om verskeie institusionele en maatskaplike redes nie ’n voorkeurwerkgewer is nie. Jong Suid-Afrikaners, wat risikoweersinnig en individualisties is en naby hulle familie wil bly, vind ʼn militêre loopbaan breedweg onaantreklik. Die militêre kultuur spreek ook nie die meerderheid aan nie, wat nie ontvanklik is vir outoritêre regimes wat onverbiddelike gehoorsaamheid en dissipline eis en hegemoniese manlike ideale beklemtoon nie. Hierbenewens is daar twee samelewingsfaktore wat ʼn beduidende impak het op die SANW se vermoë om rekrute te werf. Die kwynende prestige van ʼn militêre loopbaan en die teenwoordigheid van ʼn steeds groeiende kloof tussen siviel en militêr dui daarop dat jongmense nóg oor die militêr ingelig is nóg dit as ’n werk met status in die samelewing beskou. Gevolglik kan die SANW se onvermoë om werwingsteikens te behaal sy vermoë om sy mandaat uit te voer nadelig beïnvloed.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96851
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