Doubts over government’s R24 billion unemployment programme

 ·16 Apr 2024

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has expressed doubts over the government’s new R23.8 billion unemployment programme, arguing that the opportunities it promises to create will not be sustainable.

In early April, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi announced a new Labour Activation Programme (LAP) within the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) which would provide “training for employment and entrepreneurship programmes” for 704,000 unemployed South Africans, with the programme lasting between 12 – 36 months.

It was revealed that it would use R23.8 billion from the UIF to implement the LAP, and funds would be recouped through contributions from employers and employees, as well as investment-generated revenue.

Saftu, a trade union confederation affiliated with 17 unions and claims to organise around 800,000 workers, said that it is “extremely worried” about the LAP using UIF funds which could be used to increase unemployment benefits, arguing that it is an “electioneering ploy,” rather than an opportunity to create long-lasting jobs.

The “few job opportunities that will be created through this programme are an electioneering ploy, especially if you consider that the span of those jobs will last between 12 and 36 months [which] indicates that these opportunities will not be sustainable,” said Saftu.

However, Nxesi said that these opportunities are longer, as “after [the training, employees] must be linked to the companies to absorb them, even if they’re going to observe them for a year or two… that’s very important.”

He added that LAP is not “a silver bullet to end the challenge of unemployment, but… a viable force multiplier that can be used together with other initiatives and interventions as part of the response.”

The union said that instead of using the funds for the LAP, the minimum pay rate for unemployment benefits should increase from a maximum of 58% to 70%, and 90% for maternity leave benefits. They also said that the monthly cap should increase from R17,712 to R25,000.

Read: Government’s new R24 billion unemployment plan

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter