COSATU’s Statement on the 2023 Third Quarter Unemployment Figures

14 November 2023

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes the latest decrease in the expanded unemployment rate from 42.1% to 41.2% in the 3rd Quarter of 2023 and a net increase of 399 000 new jobs. Any decrease in the unemployment rate is welcome relief. An additional 399 000 jobs in a fragile economy is positive news. 

Given the levels of loadshedding and the crises facing Transnet that have had a massive impact upon our jobs intensive mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors, an increase in jobs provides relief for those workers and their families and is further boost to demand in the economy and taxes to the state.

This progress follows the previous quarter where unemployment fell as well. We hope this may signal a return to the progress made last year when we saw decreases in unemployment of 1% per quarter for the first three quarters of 2022. 

Whilst we appreciate any decrease in unemployment, we must remain alarmed when 4 out of 10 South Africans and 6 out of 10 youth cannot find work to feed themselves and their families. No society can sustain itself with a 41.2% unemployment rate.

We welcome this important decrease in unemployment, but we cannot afford to be complacent. This breathing space must be seized and efforts to turn the economy around and slash unemployment redoubled.

Government needs to move with speed to fix the obstacles hindering economic growth, in particular to ramp up Eskom’s maintenance programme and efforts to bring on board new generation capacity. Much more needs to be done to secure our railway network and modernize our ports which are key to ensuring mining, manufacturing, and agricultural products reach their destinations and workers can get to work on time. 

The pending retrenchments of at least 3 500 and possibly 34 000 mine workers over the next few months is deeply alarming and should sound the alarm bells at the highest levels of government and business that urgent interventions are needed to secure the mining industry and rebuild Transnet. 

Interventions are urgently needed to ensure municipalities and public service departments provide the services that the economy needs to grow. The deterioration of infrastructure and revolving door leadership in many of our municipalities is embarrassing and alarming. 

Whilst we seek to rebuild the state and grow the economy, it is critical that support be provided to the unemployed. Key to this must be to extend the SRD Grant to the Food Poverty Line and link its recipients to skills and employment opportunities. Government also needs to increase the Presidential Employment Programme that has provided work opportunities at the minimum wage and badly needed experience and skills to 500 000 young people. This valuable Programme should be expanded to accommodate 1 million unemployed persons by the Budget Speech in February and 2 million participants by the October Medium Term Budget Policy Statement. 

To make a dent in unemployment and close the growing levels of inequality, we need an activist government and a democratic developmental state that is capable of intervening effectively to transform our economy into one that provides decent work for all. What we cannot afford is a business as usual approach.

Issued by COSATU

Matthew Parks

Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator

Cell: 082 785 0687