COSATU’s Statement on the 2023 First Quarter Unemployment Figures

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) notes the latest increase in the narrow unemployment rate from 32.7% to 32.9% in the 1st Quarter of 2023.  Any increase in the unemployment rate is deeply worrying. This comes against the welcome progress made last year when we saw decreases of 1% per quarter for the first three quarters of 2022. 

All social partners need to be alarmed by this regression as no society can sustain itself with unemployment of 42.4%. We should not be relaxed when four (4) out of ten (10) people cannot find work to feed themselves and their families. 

The Federation is deeply worried that what we hoped was momentum in reducing unemployment over the course of 2022, that this initial progress may be lost with the current rampant levels of load shedding suffocating the economy even further in 2023. 

The government’s failure to fix load-shedding and drive economic recovery is reprehensible because, behind these numbers, there are struggling families and starving people. The latest numbers show that as of 2022 about 18,2 million South Africans live in extreme poverty.

This is an unsustainable crisis and something drastic is needed to provide for the possibility to change the outcomes of our economic development trajectory. So far, there is no clear strategy presented by the government to help stimulate growth and regenerate our economy. The same failing macroeconomic policy framework remains intact despite the rhetoric about the centrality of job creation and the transformation of the economy by the government.

It is more critical for government to move with speed to fix the obstacles hindering economic growth to ramp up Eskom’s maintenance programme and efforts to bring on board new generation capacity.  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. 

Interventions are urgently needed to ensure local government 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 big and small municipalities is embarrassing and alarming.  To make a dent in unemployment and close the growing inequality, we need an activist government and a democratic developmental state that is capable of intervening effectively to transform economic relations. 

The current geopolitical tensions over the Ukraine War have further muddied the waters and if South Africa’s foreign relations are mismanaged, this situation will sadly get worse. We maintain strong and healthy economic ties with all the involved parties in the Ukraine conflict. South Africa needs a balanced foreign policy approach that will be both principled and pragmatic.

We support the posture of our government to defend our sovereignty and historic alliances, as well as to affirm our non-aligned status and support for a negotiated settlement to the war. It is these allies and their sacrifices that made our democracy possible. But the Federation continues to encourage our government to also pursue an approach that is much more prudential than doctrinaire on this matter.

We need to encourage dialogue amongst the parties involved and not be dragged into the conflict. COSATU believes that our foreign policy should always foster friendly relations with all nations in pursuit of promoting our important national interests; including our need to advance our developmental agenda and slash our dangerously high unemployment levels.

Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Cell: 060 975 6794