Mdladlana’s plan to get people working

2010-05-08 08:35

The government is planning to broaden its employment service as one

of the measures intended to reduce the high levels of ­joblessness.

Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said: “We hope to ­table a

bill in Parliament and ­initiate discussions at the ­National Economic

Development and Labour Council by the end of this month.”

He said the bill seeks to make it law for labour department offices

to extend their services to the unemployed.

“We want businesses which are recruiting to come to our offices to

look at the register of the unemployed when they are filling vacancies. We

already have a database of people who are drawing

benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund,” he said.

Mdladlana’s comments came in the week that Statistics SA said that

171 000 people were pushed towards poverty as they

lost their jobs in the first three months of this year.

This figure pushed to 6.1 million the number of employable people who are on the streets. This number is nearly a

third of the country’s total workforce, which is estimated at 19 million people.

Last year, one million people were

left jobless by the recession. Economists say that job losses have emerged as

one of the blots on President Jacob Zuma’s first year in office.

They say creating jobs in an economy faced with rising input costs,

such as electricity and ­water, would be particularly ­difficult.

An economist, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “The

government needs to encourage business to make long-term investment decisions

that can lead to job creation. At the moment, Zuma appears to be caught up in

the battles within the divided ANC.

That is robbing the country of decisive leadership as the economy

emerges from the recession.”

Even though unemployment appears to be on the rise, Mdladlana said

the government would not consider relaxing some of the labour laws.

“There is no empirical evidence that supports the suggestion that

labour flexibility leads to increased employment,” he said.

Mdladlana said what appears to be a better option is a model that

links more closely the country’s macro-economic policy with its socioeconomic

position.

“We need to have a discussion about the rand because its wild

fluctuation is causing problems for employment in the economy,” he said.

Another suggestion being considered by the labour department is

strengthening youth development programmes with role players, such as the

National Youth Development Agency and the Public Works Programme.

“Some of the jobs may be short-term but the skills acquired can be

a lifetime investment,” Mdladlana said.

An analyst said the ability of the informal sector to continue to

create jobs is questionable because when people

lose their jobs they also lose their ability to raise loans to start small

businesses.

Statistics on employers in the informal sector show that many people who create jobs are those who start small

businesses after losing their jobs.

The government sponsored training lay-off intervention is achieving

mixed success.

Mdladlana said the only ­companies that were retraining their

employees were in the me­tals industry.

He said: “It appears that other companies see the recession as an

opportunity to restructure and retrench without considering retaining the

staff.”



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