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Unemployment Stats Show Failure of Austerity Policies, Time for a BIG

Unemployment Stats Show Failure of Austerity Policies, Time for a BIG

Assembly of the Unemployed and the Alternative Information and Development Centre | Statement on the latest QLFS | 25 August, 2021

The Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) and the Assembly of the Unemployed (AoU) note the results of the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) with concern – concern that grows with each latest release. The results for the second quarter of 2021 once again show that ranks of the unemployed continue to swell, and the numbers continue to break records. 

Still the government continues to stick with implementing its austerity agenda, this biggest cuts to the budget in real terms in democratic South Africa were implemented this year. This happens in a context of already intolerable living conditions for the vast majority of people living in South Africa. Austerity only intensifies the already deteriorating living standards that the masses are forced to live in. The reduction in government spending, through budget cuts coupled with the cuts to the public sector wage bill, will only lead to growing levels of joblessness. These austerity policies will continue to eat away at the already inadequate public services that poor households are forced to rely on to get by.

The latest QLFS statistics indicate that pressure on such households is only mounting. In simple terms, there are fewer jobs, there are fewer people that have jobs and there are more people who have given up looking up for work. To compound matters, the increase in the number of people that are now without jobs means that there are more dependants. Already stretched household budgets need to be stretched even further to cover them. It is already impossible to make ends meet – it now boils down to choosing between food or electricity.

The 7,8 million people classified as unemployed are people who are willing and able to work, they are actively looking for jobs and could be contributing money to household expenses. There are a further 3,3 million people who have been pushed beyond unemployment and given up looking for work altogether. The jobs bloodbath directly contributes to the massive rates of hunger that now leave more than 10 million without food, of this 3 million are children. It is women and youth who are disproportionately impacted – the level of unemployment is higher for youth (52.3%) and women (48.7%) – and  it is also mostly women in precarious work.

The statistics paint a gloomy picture. Unemployment is no longer a ticking time bomb. That bomb exploded in the July unrest which rocked KZN and Gauteng. More explosions can be expected and it is only a matter of time when SA is over-run by food and associated riots of deprivation and anger.

These problems are exacerbated by government’s austerity policies and the increased precariatisation of work advanced by the private sector in the wake of the pandemic. 

Ahead of the local government elections and following the social unrest in July (coupled with pressure for the implementation of a basic income grant) government has reinstated and expanded the eligibility for the R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRD) in an attempt to alleviate some pressure. However, the simple fact is that this amount is not enough and will do little to deal with the issues many households have to deal with on a daily basis. 

The R350 grant will do little to address even this one issue, amounting to just over R11 a day – half of what is required to buy a loaf of bread and a litre of milk. The depths of this crisis necessitates the immediate:

  1. Implementation of a dignified, universal Basic Income Grant of R1500 and the increase of the child support grant to R 585;  the implementation of the BIG should be coupled with the constitutionalisation of the right to work – government must employ everyone willing and able to work at a dignified wage. This can be done through insourcing the EPWP workers and expanding the programme both in terms of the number and quality of jobs;
  2. Reversal of government’s austerity programme and the implementation of an emergency fully funded relief programme targeting food support for the poor;
  3. Creation of at least 1 million climate jobs through the roll-out of state driven mass housing programme and the development of a rapid renewable energy build programme that can provide affordable energy for all;
  4. Fixing of our health care, our schools and the delivery of free dignified services for all; and
  5. Land redistribution and agrarian reform for food sovereignty 

The AIDC and AOU have consistently called for the rich to be taxed in order to implement these proposals. This includes the implementation of a net wealth tax, combating profit shifting and wage evasion, and harnessing the domestic resources that are at our disposal. It also means taking additional measures to stop and punish public and private sector corruption that rob the poor of a dignified life.

For more information contact:

For the AoU:

Khokhoma Motsi –

Siyabulela Mama – 

Leonard Ncongwane –

For the AIDC:

Dominic Brown –

Greg Dor –

Posted in AIDC

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