South Africa is currently gripped by a deep and longstanding unemployment crisis which shows no signs of improving. The current unemployment rate is over 27% while youth unemployment is even higher at over 38%.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has convened an urgent job summit which will bring together the national government, provincial governments, labour, civil and business sectors for a series of crunch meetings in Johannesburg on Thursday and Friday.
The aim of the summit is to find a long-lasting solution to the deepening crisis by identifying ways to strengthen the economy, better equip workers to take advantage of opportunities and expanding infrastructure so business can operate effectively.
Briefly.co.za takes a look at five proposed solutions to the crisis which if implemented correctly could help to ease the crisis by reducing the unemployment rate.
1. Increase economic growth
The stagnant economy and current recession make it nearly impossible for employment opportunities to arise. Economists believe the economy needs to grow by at least 3% each year to stimulate job creation.
Investec Chief Economist Annabel Bishop said continued above-average economic growth is desperately needed in South Africa. She said the country needed to triple the size of the private sector which would, in turn, lead to a broader swath of the population being included in job creation.
Bishop said job creation was paramount in the effort to reduce social and economic disparity and inequality in the country.
2. A complete overhaul of current policies
South Africa’s second biggest trade union, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), is boycotting the summit. Saftu blames the government and business sectors for the current crisis which it says is the result of 24 years of bad policy decisions.
Saftu said the summit would be a wasted opportunity with vague targets and goals being set. The organisation said South Africa had allowed international market trends to dictate policy in the last 24 years rather than being brave and forging its own path.
Saftu said a bold new approach was needed which included nationalisation of mines, banks and other major manufacturing sectors. The organisation believes a wholesale overhaul of policy would benefit the people of the country.
The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) called for policy changes to reverse the current trend which it claims is raising the cost of doing business in the country, dampens employment and limits economic growth.
3. Greater support for small businesses and entrepreneurs
The CDE pointed out that entrepreneurs and small businesses were the best way to quickly and effectively reduce the unemployment rate. It has called on the government to provide policy and support which will make it easier for these entities to thrive.
The CDE pointed out that current policy was focused on high skills and high wages while the current reality is that South Africa has a low skills workforce. The organisation said the government needed to acknowledge this fact and plan for the workforce the country has and not the workforce which it wished we had.
Economists and demographic experts agree that tertiary students need to be taught how to start their own business rather than sitting at home and waiting for a job to come their way.
4. Specific and defined targets and deadlines
Cosatu said the summit needed to provide clear, specific and defined targets, goals and deadlines if it was to be taken seriously and not be seen as just another wasted opportunity.
Fin24.co.za reported that the trade federation said the government and business sectors needed to provide more details about investments rather than vague reports about billions going into a made up economic sector.
Cosatu also called for a follow-up summit which would report back on its progress and challenges.
5. Retaining current jobs
Last but by no means least, job retention has been identified as being a critical mechanic in the larger picture of creating jobs. Measures which include up-skilling workers, reducing hours, reducing new hires and transferring of employees have been suggested to reduce job losses.
The Federation of Unions of South Africa's (Fedusa) General Secretary Dennis George said it was counterintuitive to speak about job creation when the government reportedly planned to fire 30 000 civil servants.
Fedusa pointed out that the government was still struggling to fill all of its vacant positions which in turn led to service delivery issues. The federation said the government needed to fill those vacancies before it could even consider other reductions.
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