Cosatu warns Jobs Summit could be 'damp squib'

Just days before the National Jobs Summit, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has cautioned that the event could turn into a talk shop and complained that the government and business sent junior delegations to preparatory meetings.

"Officials are weak and lazy, we were promised DGs (directors-general) would attend meetings…we’ve yet to see this. We are dealing with people who don’t have decision-making powers," Cosatu’s parliamentary coordinator, Matthew Parks, told Fin24.

The National Jobs Summit, on Thursday and Friday in Midrand, is being touted by President Cyril Ramaphosa as an avenue to address the rising jobless rate.

According to the Quarterly Employment Statistics released last week by Statistics South Africa, 69 000 jobs in the private, non-agricultural sector were lost in the second quarter of 2018  while the official unemployment rate increased to 27.2% in April, May and June.

Parks believes that the Jobs Summit, which is being coordinated by negotiating forum the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) could be a "damp squib".

He said however that Cosatu doesn’t have a choice and will “have to keep pushing” in the hope that Ramaphosa’s presence at the Jobs Summit will “cajole” officials but he warned that “government seems to lack creativity and will” to create jobs.

According to a government statement, the Jobs Summit will focus on “collaborative and high-impact interventions to drive job creation, job retention and economic growth”.

The presidency referred a request for comment to Nedlac, who did not respond to the questions.

Already grabbed low hanging fruit

Similar scepticism about the possibilities of success for the Jobs Summit was expressed by economist at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Christie Viljoen, who said that many of the confidence-boosting measures, such as releasing the revised Mining Charter and tackling state-owned enterprises (SOEs), have already been done, and the various constituencies represented at Nedlac will find it difficult to agree on the policies required to drive growth.

He said the most direct route to creating large numbers of jobs would be government ramping up its infrastructure spend, a promise made by Ramaphosa in his stimulus package earlier in September, to spend R400bn in the next three years.

While the manufacturing sector bled the most jobs in the second quarter, Viljoen believes the country can re-industrialise but labour will need to be “skilled and affordable” to compete with Latin American and Asian countries. This would, however, put government on a collision path with trade unions.

Viljoen said PwC foresees growth of 2% for SA over the next 5 years, a far cry from the 5% gross domestic product (GDP) growth the National Development Plan hopes will lower unemployment to 16% by 2030.

According to Viljoen, SA will find it “basically impossible” to bring the jobless rate under 25% before 2023 while the economy is projected to grow at 0.7% in 2018 by the South African Reserve Bank.

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