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Press Statement: Government must urgently deal with the unemployment emergency!

The Assembly of the Unemployed (AoU) and the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) call for government interventions that are urgently needed to address the ever-deepening crisis of unemployment that the country faces. 

12.48 million people are now unemployed according to the expanded definition of unemployment released in the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey by Statistics SA. This is a staggering figure, amounting to 46.6% of the labour force. And this figure excludes homemakers, of which there are a further 2.7 million, that are classified as not economically active. Many of these homemakers are unemployed women who would readily accept a job at a living wage.  

Activists protesting outside the Cape Town Civic Centre.

The narrow definition of the unemployment rate has increased by 0,5 of a percentage point to 34,9%, making it the highest unemployment rate recorded since the start of the QLFS in 2008. This is the third quarter in a row in which the record has been broken. Since the ANC government does not have a viable job creation strategy coupled with the fact that the country is experiencing a continuing jobs bloodbath, the jobs crisis will be with us for decades.

More than 400 000 jobs have been lost this past year, and more can be expected in the short-term future. In the last quarter alone, there were a massive 660 000 jobs losses. The only employment increase was observed in the informal sector (9 000) in this quarter, while employment losses were observed in the formal sector (571 000), private households (65 000) and agricultural sector (32 000).

The number of discouraged work-seekers, people who have given up the hope of finding a job, increased by 545 000 (up by 16,4 %) between the two quarters. While the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement also increased by 443 000 (up by 3,3%), resulting in a net increase of 988 000 (nearly a million) in the not economically active population. This is an absolutely staggering figure indicating the depth of the crisis we are in.

According to the narrow definition, 78.5% of the official 7.6 million unemployed are in long term employment and 40% of these 7.6 million people are between the ages 25 and 34. Drastic measures are required to address and begin reversing this ever-worsening situation. 

In the face of these numbers, this government must resign. Potential job-creating alternatives are available. The AoU and AIDC believe we need a government which will take the drastic measures this crisis requires, and in this regard implement the following interventions as a matter of urgency:

(1) Reverse budget cuts, including the cuts to the public sector wage bill. Not doing so will lead to further joblessness severely undermining any prospects for a just recovery that can deal with this massive unemployment emergency.

(2) Implement a decent basic income grant (BIG) alongside constitutionalising the right to work – so that government employs everyone willing and able to work at a living wage. This should be the priority rather than inflation targeting and a primary budget surplus.

(3) Harness public and private finances, and direct it towards investing in development that meets the needs of people and the planet. For example, a mass housing programme, transforming and expanding public transport, and investing in transforming Eskom into a fully public renewable energy utility. This can lay the basis for the creation of millions of climate jobs that contributes to the driving of a low-carbon reindustrialisation strategy for the country.


Posted in AIDC

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