The Assembly of the Unemployed (AoU) and the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) are not moved by the recently released figures that indicate that the unemployment rate decreased to 32.9% from 33.9% in the second quarter of 2022.
According to Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, 7,7 million South Africans are unemployed and 3,5 million are discouraged work-seekers meaning more than 11 million South Africans remain jobless. A staggering figure that mirrors the country’s employment crisis. Since the 3rd quarter of 2019 approximately 800 thousand people are less employed and 1 million more unemployed.
We believe the South African unemployment problem is rooted in the premature deindustrialization of the SA economy and the dismantling of the manufacturing as well as the clothing and textile industries. This problem is made worse as a result of the government’s harsh austerity including massive cuts to the public sector wage bill which is not just about workers’ wages but about reducing the headcount.
When coupling budget cuts with massive interest rate hikes, it is like pulling the hand brake on the SA economy. When you throw load-shedding into the mix, we are likely to see more job losses in the future.
Mass unemployment drives income inequalities and the erosion of the social fabric manifested in alcohol and drug abuse, growing violence and crime, especially amongst the youth. The recent figures indicate that 4,6-million young people aged between 15 and 34 remain unemployed and excluded from enjoying the fruits of our democracy.
As the AoU and the AIDC, we continue to call on the government to adopt potential job-creating alternatives that are available in addressing the unemployment crisis:
1: Basic Income Grant: These staggering figures are an indication that there’s an urgent need for the introduction of a decent basic income grant of at least R1500 per month. This will not only improve peoples’ standard of living and lift people from starvation but it can help to stimulate the local economy and improve productivity – which is where jobs are created.
2: Invest in job-creating alternatives: Develop a low-carbon reindustrialization programme that can create millions of jobs aimed at addressing climate change. Here we can invest in public energy, public transport, housing, and transforming agriculture. This includes the production of socially owned renewable energy and the manufacturing of solar PV and wind infrastructure.
3: Government must become the employer of last resort: The government must employ everyone willing and able to work and pay them a living wage. There is lots of work to be done and people learn by doing. The expanded public works can be the basis to do this, but it needs to be transformed and improved in terms of the working conditions. This means permanent employment at a living wage.
This also means expanding the public sector as we need many more teachers, health care and municipal workers. Just one example, there are approximately 70 000 community healthcare workers who can be employed directly by the state at a living wage, this will not only reduce unemployment levels, but it will also improve the public health sector.
The government must do away with the current trend of outsourcing the provision of local services to tenderprenuers as it is one of the main drivers that leads to the inability of municipalities to create jobs. We call on the government to create and build the capacity of municipalities and stop outsourcing and tendering all essential projects.
4. Tax the rich: All of this would entail a break from governments’ export-led growth path and addiction to neoliberal austerity. It also requires a large level of resources. SA has a lot of money; we need to tax the rich.
a. Implement a progressive net wealth tax of between 3 and 7%;
b. Increase personal income tax rates on the rich;
c. Stop profit shifting and wage evasion;
d. Use the surpluses of the government employees’ pension to invest in a re-industrialization and there are even more pools of money that can be harnessed and utilized.
Millions of people are facing a bleak Christmas and go to bed hungry including more than 3 million children while a handful of CEOs have incomes of more than R1.7 million a year on average. We cannot afford to remain silent. That is why we call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to implement a wealth tax.
If the government fails to look at the alternatives, the jobs crisis will be with us for decades. The AoU and AIDC believe we need a government which will take the drastic measures this crisis requires.
- Human Rights Media Centre
- Right to Know Campaign
- Nic Baigrie
For more information contact:
For the AoU:
- Motsi Khokhoma, Botshabelo Unemployed Movement: 073 490 7623
- Matthews Hlabane, Southern Africa Green Revolutionary Council (SAGRC): 082 707 9860
For the AIDC:
- Elroy Paulus, AIDC Economic Justice Programme Manager: 082 748 5621
- Dick Forslund, AIDC Senior Economist on 082 895 7947