Cape Town - Government created 480 000 public works job opportunities by the end of December, falling just three percent short of the target set by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address last year.
He had said government would create 500 000 work opportunities under the Expanded Public Works Programme.
Delivering his second State of the Nation Address this evening, Zuma said the 480 000 jobs were created in areas such as construction, home and community-based care and environmental projects.
However, the country's most urgent focus must be on interventions to create jobs for young people.
"The most urgent focus of policy change must be interventions to create jobs for young people. Unemployment rates for young people are substantially higher than the average," said Zuma.
Government is to table proposals to subsidise the cost of hiring young workers to encourage firms to take inexperienced staff.
A further expansion of public employment programmes, including local infrastructure and literacy projects, home-based care, school maintenance and early childhood development initiatives, is also underway.
"We have identified some areas of improvement which we will effect going forward, including ensuring more labour intensive project," said Zuma.
He said government acknowledged that these and other measures could not fully mitigate the effects of the recession, but added that the country was grateful for the spirit of community and voluntary work which had inspired many to help people in the hard economic times.
The government had also urged the National Youth Development Agency, which was created last year through a merger of the Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the National Youth Commission, to speed up the rollout of branches throughout the country.
The government had also created the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Advisory Council chaired by the president, to promote an inclusive economy.