Government wants to use BEE to fix South Africa’s unemployment problem

Government will look at ‘expanding and further analysing’ the implementation of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) to address the needs of young people in South Africa.

This is one of the key proposals in a new Draft National Youth policy for 2020 – 2030, which outlines plans to get more young South Africans into education and employment opportunities over the next 10 years.

The document, gazetted by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, states that youth unemployment has reached ‘crisis proportions’ and remains one of the major challenges for the country to overcome.

Data from Statistics South Africa shows that of the 10.3 million persons aged 15-24 years in the country, 32.4% (approximately 3.3 million) were not in employment, education or training.

“The alignment of all legislation, codes and charters that flow from the BBBEE Act will ensure that the state procurement lever is used more effectively to advance socio-economic targets in certain geographies and industries,” the document states.

It adds that ‘inequality of opportunity’ in South Africa will be reduced through the implementation of redress measures such as BBBEE and land reform, as well as through the radical economic transformation agenda driven by government.

Some of the other business and economic-focused proposals in the document include:

  • The public service internship programme must be scaled up to create 60,000 internship opportunities or reach 5% of total employment. Government departments, provinces and municipalities should be required to link the internship programme to their human resource development strategies to create a talent pool from which to recruit when vacancies are available.
  • Large companies should be engaged to set clear commitments in terms of opening the workplace for young people who require internships, apprenticeships and work-integrated learning opportunities;
  • Practical subjects such as entrepreneurship, technical skills and handwork (art) need to be introduced to the school curriculum help those who are not inclined to proceed to higher education;
  • A national campaign coordinated by the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology should be initiated to place university students and graduates who need work experience in state-owned companies;
  • All government departments including municipalities should have internship programmes, which should be monitored in terms of numbers and quality;
  • Every qualification at university should be coupled with an experiential component to ensure graduates have experience when they qualify;
  • Government should a sectoral approach to connect young entrepreneurs to opportunities in different sectors of the economy and various programmes, such as the infrastructure building programme and general public procurement.
  • The introduction of mandatory targets for socio-economic development and job creation for all tenders above R10 million;
  • There should be a statutory body to regulate BBBEE verification, and the Department of Trade and Industry should be empowered to revoke the accreditation status of accredited verification agencies that deviate from officially defined processes of accreditation.

Big employment equity shake-up

While the above proposals are still in the pipeline, South African businesses are currently preparing for planned amendments to the Employment Equity Act (EEA) which promise a number of significant changes to the country’s employment equity laws.

Announced by Labour minister Thulas Nxesi in July 2019, the amendment bill will regulate the setting of sector-specific employment targets to address the gross under-representation of blacks, women and persons with disabilities.

It will also ensure that an employment equity certificate of compliance becomes a precondition for access to state contracts.

A draft version of the bill published at the end of 2018 indicated that the changes being were made to speed up transformation.

The bill states that while the public sector has seen significant changes, the private sector continues to lag behind.

“It has been 20 years since the inception of the Employment Equity Act, however the pace of transformation has been slow,” the bill states.

Read: 15 major changes planned for schools and universities in South Africa – including new subjects

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Government wants to use BEE to fix South Africa’s unemployment problem