COSATU’s Statement on the 2023 Second Quarter Unemployment Figures

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) notes the latest decrease in the expanded unemployment rate from 42.4% to 42.1% in the 2nd Quarter of 2023 and a net increase of 154 000 new jobs.  Any decrease in the unemployment rate is welcome relief.  Given the levels of loadshedding and the challenges facing Transnet that have had a massive impact upon our jobs intensive mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors, an increase in jobs, however small, is positive news.

This shift comes against the previous two quarters where unemployment increased.  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 42.1% unemployment rate.

Whilst welcoming this small but nonetheless decrease in unemployment, 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.  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 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 SRF 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 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement in October and 2 million participants by the February Budget Speech. 

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 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