COSATU statement on the 1st Quarter unemployment numbers

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted the latest unemployment figures by StatSA showing that unemployment has remained stable from a record 35,3% to 34,5%. The creation of 370 000 new jobs and the decrease in unemployment from the real unemployment of 46.2% to 45.5% is welcome but is no reason for celebration.

This, to a certain extent, can be attributed to the removal of restrictions including government’s decision to invoke the disaster management act that removed all restrictions that were put in place to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections.

This means that amongst those who were allowed to go back to work, some still found their jobs open. This speaks to the resilience of some of these affected sectors.

What is needed is for government to honour the ANC’s commitments in its 2019 elections Manifesto that include the commitment to “promote a developmental growth path “. The ANC 2019 Manifesto said, “Our macroeconomic framework, including fiscal and monetary policies, will be aligned to support the commitments made in this Manifesto. The ANC believes that the South African Reserve Bank must pursue a flexible monetary policy regime, aligned with the objectives of the second phase of transition. Without sacrificing price stability, monetary policy must take into account other objectives such as employment creation and economic growth.”

Government also needs to deal with other detrimental problems like vast and deepening corruption and wastages in the state.

What will not create jobs is an austerity programme. The current economic strategy is neither geared towards achieving structural economic transformation nor inclusive growth. It can be best described as a strategy for containing public-debt and reducing budget-deficit through a fiscal austerity programme – mainly fixated on the so-called public service wage bill. It has long abandoned the perspective of a capable developmental state, which is supposed to be the overarching thrust of the role of the state in terms of NDP.

In the short-to-medium term, government needs to fix the loadshedding problem and ensure a reliable electricity supply. Fuel costs and data costs also need to be greatly reduced to support small businesses and business startups.

The government also needs to sort out the problem of funding for small businesses by establishing a State Bank that will fund small medium enterprises and focus on productive lending and not consumption lending. The Land Bank needs to be adequately resourced to fund those who are interested and are already involved in farming and food production. The NYNDA needs to be given enough resources to help young people to start and expand their businesses.

The government institutions like SOEs, departments and municipalities need to be compelled to prioritize young people when it comes to procurement.

The government needs to intervene to save Transnet and Metrorail. A revived Metrorail will get 10 million workers to work on time and off the costly fuel dependent transportation. This will boost economic productivity and lessen our dependence on petrol. 

The Presidential Employment Stimulus funding needs to be doubled to R30 billion to help create 1 million job opportunities for young people. 

Our education system also needs to be responsive and equip young people with the necessary skills to be competitive.  Without urgent and targeted action to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with futureproof skills, we are likely to continue to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality.  

This is a massive problem that cannot be solved by government alone and requires a genuine Social Compact that involves communities, labour, and the private sector. Government does have a responsibility to take the lead and invest its resources instead of believing that the private sector will solve this problem of employment creation.  

 Issued by COSATU      

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794