Patricia de Lille | Economic recovery plan: More jobs from Public Works

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People working in the restaurant industry protests against the South African lockdown restrictions. (Photo by Gallo Images/Nardus Engelbrecht)
People working in the restaurant industry protests against the South African lockdown restrictions. (Photo by Gallo Images/Nardus Engelbrecht)

Government is investing billions into scaling up traditional public employment initiatives such as the Expanded Public Works Programme, as well as new forms of public employment as part of the economic recovery plan, writes Patricia de Lille.


The country’s biggest drive to get more South Africans into work has kicked off as part of our Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan.

The plan sets out to create more than 800 000 job opportunities in the current financial year and is investing R100 billion over the next three years to support the employment stimulus programme.

The intervention comes at a time when the country’s economy has taken an unprecedented knock from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, this has resulted in more than two million people being forced out of work in the second quarter of this year. 

Sustainable employment unlocks the potential of people to contribute towards community development, economic growth and social stability. The Presidential Employment Stimulus gives impetus to this fundamental right by driving an extensive and far-reaching public investment programme in human capital and government will double up as both creator and enabler of jobs.

Structural issues 

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, our economy had been struggling to create jobs fast enough to absorb new entrants into the workplace due to the deep-rooted structural issues.

The coronavirus has presented us with an opportunity to rethink our approach to tackling the challenge of unemployment, especially amongst youth. Our recovery plan is about implementation, accountability and restoring our country to a new growth trajectory.

Importantly, it draws in the public and private sector, together with communities in accelerating the creation of mass employment opportunities.  

Government is investing R12.6 billion this year to scale up traditional public employment initiatives such as the Expanded Public Works Programme, as well as new forms of public employment.

Of the 800 000 job opportunities government will create, 300 000 young people will be employed as teacher assistants at public schools across the country. We will fund an additional 6 000 community health workers and nursing assistants. We will also support more than 100 000 early childhood development practitioners and 75 000 small-scale farmers whose production was disrupted by the pandemic.

Government will ensure that these work opportunities are up and running as soon as possible.

In partnership with the Presidency, we are working with departments to finalise their recruitment and implementation plans. With job creation locally driven, it allows South Africans to earn an income while contributing to their community.

These opportunities also provide training and skills development to aid future employment.

A large portion of the government’s 800 000 mass employment programme is linked to South Africa’s Infrastructure Investment Plan. In this regard, of the 62 infrastructure projects that we have gazetted, five have mass employment programmes built into them.

These include the Comprehensive Urban Management Programme which will create 52 000 jobs over the next three years.

READ | South Africa's economic blueprint lacks funding details Mbeki says

This translates to approximately 1 000 jobs per district for the 44 districts and the eight metros starting in the Vhembe District Municipality, OR Tambo District Municipality and eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality.

The Rural Bridges Welisizwe Programme aims to build 400 bridges over the next three years will draw more people in rural areas into work. These bridges enable the safe crossing over rivers of communities to schools, health facilities and economic opportunities.

We will further accelerate job creation through providing 10 000 unemployed youth graduates work opportunities to digitise physical paper-based government records as part of Digitisation of Government Information Programme.

The Rural Roads Rehabilitation and Upgrading Special Programme is expected to create more than 4 000 jobs in the maintenance and construction of 200 kilometres of roads in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape, North West, Limpopo, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal.

The Upgrading of Township Roads in Municipalities, which is expected to create more than 3 400 labour-intensive job opportunities and at the same time much-needed maintenance and upgrading of our road infrastructure network.

Recruitment process

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure is currently finalising the recruitment process for the infrastructure-led mass employment programmes which will be deployed across all provinces, using the district delivery model.

There will be a fair, open and transparent process across programmes. All positions will be advertised as widely as possible in the areas where work will take place and in accordance with the service that the programme has been designed to provide. 

READ | Opinion: South Africa's recovery will be limited without investment in maintaining rail sector

Further, skilled unemployed and retired persons can upload their details and CVs for opportunities on a skills portal on the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure’s website.

Part-time public employment programmes is crucial for people who have lost income supporting measures but it also creates a bridge to formal employment and other forms of economic opportunity in both the public and private sectors.

While the economic recovery takes root, we need to expand public employment to support livelihoods and provide economic opportunities as the economy recovers to replace the jobs that are lost.

 - Patricia de Lillle is the Minister of Public Works 

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