South Africa is heading towards a 50% unemployment rate: unions

 ·30 Mar 2022

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has raised alarm bells over South Africa’s record high unemployment rate which is steadily creeping towards the 50% mark.

Data published by Statistics South Africa on Tuesday (29 March) shows that the country’s official unemployment rate rose 0.4 percentage points to a record 35.3% in the fourth quarter of last year. However, the expanded definition of unemployment is currently sitting at 46.2%.

“There is a real danger that it may rise in the next quarter as the war in Ukraine unfolds and the global oil and domestic fuel prices skyrocket,” the trade federation said.

“This is very alarming because it means that in no time about 50% of people in the working-age population will be officially unemployed. The government’s decision to suffocate the economy by implementing a framework of economic policies that do not place employment creation as a priority but is geared at reducing the budget deficit and containing the debt burden has backfired.”

Cosatu was particularly critical of the government’s failure to address longstanding issues which had contributed to the country’s job losses, including load shedding.

“The country needs a more stable and affordable electricity tariff regime conducive to industrial and economic growth.  Eskom is the lifeline for this economy and there cannot be an economic recovery without an efficient and stable Eskom.

“Eskom’s situation will worsen with the rise in fuel prices as it depends upon diesel to offset load shedding. We must now finalise Eskom’s debt relief package so that its unhealthy dependence on double-digit tariff hikes can end and it is enabled to focus on ramping up maintenance and expanding generation capacity.”

The trade federation also called for intervention in Transnet and metro rail which it says are necessary to get the country’s mining, manufacturing, and agricultural products to their markets on time, helping to save and create jobs in those sectors.

Other proposals include:

  • Investing in additional personnel and resources for the South African Revenue Service (SARS) will enable it to ramp up customs duties’ enforcement. This will not only generate badly needed revenue for the state but also help protect local manufacturing jobs.
  • The Presidential Employment Stimulus funding needs to be doubled to R30 billion to help create one million job opportunities for young people.
  • Our education system also needs to be responsive and equip young people with the necessary skills to be competitive.  Without urgent and targeted action to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with futureproof skills, we are likely to continue to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality.
  • Banks need to be engaged to provide affordable and accessible credit to young people wanting to set up their own businesses.
  • The public procurement system needs to be overhauled so that there is a single open, online system for the entire state. This will make it easier to monitor and ensure that it favours local procurement and prioritises young entrepreneurs.

Read: Middle-class South Africans are struggling to make it to the end of the month

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