Ramaphosa defends govt's response to soaring unemployment crisis

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President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

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President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a press statement on Tuesday that five programmes of the presidential employment stimulus had started being implemented. The statement was made in response to the high rate of unemployment in South Africa.

Ramaphosa said the employment programmes had already started in different departments, including those of agriculture, land reform and rural development; trade, industry and competition; public works and infrastructure; environment, forestry and fisheries; as well as the National Arts Council.

He said the department of basic education had already employed 300 000 education and general school assistants at schools across the country, and that the National Arts Council and National Film and Video Foundation had also released calls for proposals to support the creative sector and protect jobs in cultural institutions.

Statistics SA (Stats SA) released its latest quarterly unemployment statistics for quarter three of 2020 last month. They showed that of the 39.2 million people aged 15 to 64 (working age) in the country, only 37.5% were in work.

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The agency showed the country’s unemployment rate jumped to 30.8% in the third quarter of 2020 from 23.3% in the second quarter, while the report working age population increased by 146 000 in the third quarter compared with the second quarter.

The toll on poor people is now unbearable
Ayal Belling, the founder of the unemployed movement Organising for Work

The expanded definition of unemployment suggests an even worse picture. Stats SA places the expanded definition of unemployment at 43.1% from 42% the previous quarter.

Ayal Belling, the founder of the unemployed movement Organising for Work, called this a crisis and said the record numbers of the unemployed should send a shock through our system and compel an immediate reconsideration of our economic policy.

“The toll on poor people is now unbearable,” he said.

In his statement, Ramaphosa said the employment stimulus aims to create “or support” close to 800 000 job opportunities within the current financial year.

He said the stimulus was designed to respond to the economic reconstruction and recovery plan as well as the rise in unemployment caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“Eleven national departments and all nine provinces are responsible for implementation of programmes supported through the employment stimulus.

“There are more than 400 000 opportunities that have already been supported, with several programmes in the recruitment or beneficiary identification phase,” said Ramaphosa.

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“This is being achieved through an unprecedented expansion of public and social employment, as well as through the protection of existing jobs in vulnerable sectors and support for livelihood and enterprise opportunities.”

Ramaphosa also said the department of trade, industry and competition had also expanded the global business services incentive to enable job creation for young people in the business process outsourcing sector. He said the department of public works and infrastructure expanded its public employment programmes in water and energy efficiency, facilities management, waste management and the Welisizwe Rural Bridges Programme

“The speed and scale at which the presidential employment stimulus has been implemented demonstrates government’s commitment to act with urgency to support South Africa’s economic recovery,” said Ramaphosa.


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