NEWS & ANALYSIS

Latest unemployment figures should serve as wakeup call – COSATU

Federation says govt either in denial about the extent of the crisis or it has run out of ideas

COSATU statement on the latest unemployment figures

14 May 2019

The latest depressing quarterly employment statistics by Stats SA that shows a 05% increase in the unemployment rate should serve as a wakeup call to the incoming administration. This is very alarming considering that of the 36 million people of the working-age population, 27.6% are officially unemployed. According to Statistics South Africa, the country’s unemployment rate rose to 27.6% in the first quarter from 27.1% in the last quarter of 2018.

This comes on the heels of the Spectator Index, in January, revealing that South Africa is the country with the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, with about 52,8% of young people unemployed. This is calamitous for the country because it means millions of young people will be dependent on the state for their well being and that of their families.

It is therefore peculiar to see that there are attempts by the government to weaken the capacity of the state through public service retrenchments. This is either a sign that the government is in denial about the extent of the crisis or it has run out of ideas. It is now clear that the neoliberal policies based on “market forces” and international competitiveness are not going to solve our economic problems. These policies have seen more and more people sliding into poverty in this country.

In the current epoch of Neoliberalism, the centrist political establishment, of which our Treasury and SARB are an epitome in South Africa, are captive to financial capital in their superstitious fixation with narrow bands of inflation-target and budget-deficit and at the expense of industrial expansion and job creation.

The political principals and government mandarins entrusted with managing the economy should hang their heads in shame because the inequities of their favoured economic system has condemned thousands of South Africans to lives of brute survival and hopelessness.

There is no need to repeat what Cosatu has said about this being a ticking time bomb. President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC have been indulged by the voters, in particular, the poor and the working class, with one last chance. The new incoming sixth administration needs to realise that the capitalist system has now reached its limits. The system is now experiencing three interrelated crises; a crisis of sustainability, a systemic crisis and a structural crisis.

South Africa needs an economic development model that will dismantle the current colonial and apartheid economic and social policy paradigm that is unsustainable. We need an economic trajectory that will ensure that there is a proper redistribution of income and that more people are allowed to participate in the economy.

The last two decades have shown us that all of this cannot be left at the hands of the market and that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is everything.

 It is very unfortunate that the South African government is continuing to adopt regressive and contractionary policies that only focus on cutting social expenditure and weaken the capacity of the state. The deceleration of fiscal spending since 2014 and now the outright reduction of spending plunged the economy into the doldrums in an environment of depressed private sector investment and household spending.

Workers, therefore, expect to see government place massively reducing unemployment at the heart of all government programs, from national to provinces to municipalities to SOEs. The federation expects government and business to honour the progressive commitments made at the Presidential jobs summit. We will never resolve unemployment through retrenchments in their thousands across economic sectors.

The government cannot keep applying the same macroeconomic framework that led us to this current position and still go-on with the rhetoric about the centrality of job creation and the transformation of the economy.  We hope that this unemployment report will jolt the government and business into action

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 14 May 2014