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Unemployment - The extreme makeover

26 February 2014, 13:50


It has become evident that if we don’t urgently fix unemployment in South Africa, we will soon have to deal with a people’s rebellion that will ignite the flames of economic failure. Freedom fighters demanding jobs are emerging in big numbers all over. People are having nightmares over this and many are praying for a solution.

It just appears as if there is no specific intent, courage or influence to tackle and fix the unemployment problem that drives the poverty, social protests, urbanization, migration, family disintegration and crime. The unemployment problem urges an extreme makeover, a transformation that will provide all those who want to and can work the opportunity to do so and enjoy it. 

It must be said that political parties and government officials are promising voters millions of jobs. The National Development Plan produced by the National Planning Commission contains an ambitious plan to create 11-million jobs by 2030 and thereby reducing unemployment to 6%. This job growth will require the economy to grow by 5% per year and many changes to the structure of the economy and the labour market. Parties are promising to address poverty, unemployment, inequality, crime, sub-standard education and healthcare in their election manifestos, without specifying that unemployment is the root cause of many of these failures. The causes of and solutions to unemployment and the job drought must be found and developed specifically and deliberately.

Unemployment must be dealt with urgently without politicians and officials betting on ad-hoc temporary job creation schemes and employment safety net solutions. Relentless unemployment and uncertainty destroys hope, faith, confidence, personal dignity, honesty, respect, love, morale and character, the roots of a prosperous society.

The place where one starts with developing a lasting solution for unemployment is an appraisal of the current state of unemployment and an analysis of the causes of unemployment.

We start by comparing South Africa’s unemployment rate of 24.1% and workforce of 15 million in a population of 52 million to that of some leading developing economies and two of Africa’s largest economies.

 Australia, a country with 22 million people has a workforce of 11 million and an unemployment rate of 6%. Argentina, with a population of 41 million has 16 million employees and an unemployment rate of 6%. South Korea with a population of 50 million employs 25 million people and has an unemployment rate of 3%. Brazil, with a population of 193 million, has an unemployment rate of 5%.  Egypt has a population of 83 million and unemployment rate of 13%. Nigeria with a population of 166 million has an unemployment rate of 24%.

Unemployment is caused by five noxious spheres infecting, weakening and destroying each other: an unfriendly, static and weak investment, innovation, learning and entrepreneurial sphere; a sphere in which demand for services and products that create work and jobs is weak and static; a stratified compensation, training and employee engagement sphere that is employee and performance unfriendly; a rigid labour legislation sphere that is employer and employee unfriendly and a sphere in which the supply and availability of people with the character, knowledge and skills that can create and maintain required services and products is weak and static.

The extreme makeover of a person or home involves the removal of all visible and hidden blemishes and faults, followed by reconstruction and beautification. We need an extreme makeover in every sphere to bring unemployment down to an internationally competitive level of 6% by 2020. To compete with employment market leaders like Australia and South Korea, astute investments and developments in industries are required that will grow the workforce by 10 million to a total of 25 million in 2020.

The unfriendly, static and weak investment, innovation, learning and entrepreneurial sphere must be reshaped and inspired by incentives, sponsorships, recognition, innovation and adulation for visible breakthroughs in a climate of adoration and idolism. One only has to look at the life story of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, the most valuable company in the world, to see how sponsorship, mentorship, creativity, charisma, adulation and heroism build and drive breakthrough entrepreneurship.

Transportation (6.3%), agriculture (4.6%), mining (2.8%) and service utilities (0.8%) are the low employment sectors and should be targeted as priorities for investment, development and employment growth. The creation of jobs for engineers, geologists, technologists, technicians, artisans, farmers and operators to make this happen must become a strategic priority and schools and adult education institutions must be focused and geared to produce the numbers that are needed.

The highly stratified organizational accountability, compensation, training and employee engagement sphere that causes organizations to be employee and performance unfriendly will change completely when employee engagement becomes a strategic priority for business leaders. The greed, arrogance and callousness of executives must be shifted to moderation, temperance, frugality, justice, benevolence, kindness and compassion through the removal of bureaucracy, discrimination and the extreme gap between the compensation and benefits of executives and the compensation and benefits of workers.

The rigid labour legislation sphere that is employer and employee unfriendly must be overhauled completely through new legislation replacing the legislation that is destroying industries, communities and families. Conflict and rivalry between trade union bosses have changed the membership landscape and relationship between workers and employers, with conflict and strikes leading to deaths, plant stoppages and losses. The strike for a basic entry-level wage of R12 500 that started on January 23, resulted in platinum producers losing over R5-billion in revenue, while employees lost about R2.2-billion in wages. Trade union membership numbers in leading developing nations have been declining steadily for the last two decades as legislation became more industry-friendly and employers learnt how to build employee engagement. The time is now opportune to move the role, responsibility and accountability of trade unions to the public legal and judicial arena.

The supply and availability of employable people for current and future jobs must be trusted in the hands of committed and competent teachers and academics. Education and instruction must be made an attractive career option to attract the best people with a passion for people development. Parents and students must also have access to financial support to cover attendance and participation expenses.

Every executive, politician, official and citizen in South Africa that dreams of a prosperous nation with low unemployment that leads the continent in progress must take a look at the five fingers of their right hands to remind them of investment, demand, organisation, legislation and supply (IDOLS), the five makeover spheres that will change unemployment.

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