Who cares about joblessness?

Douglas Gibson says 27 years after the ANC promised "jobs, jobs, jobs" youth unemployment has hit 75%

No one seems to care about unemployment; except, of course, the many millions who are unemployed.

The expanded unemployment rate, including those who have given up looking for jobs which do not exist, is 43.2%. The youth unemployment figure, according to the Sunday Times, is 75%. Just think of the implications for a moment. This means that three-quarters of our young people are not working or studying and many or most of them may never work because there are not jobs available. Our economy does not grow sufficiently to increase employment opportunities.

Can you imagine the appalling effect on all these young lives? Do you appreciate the danger to our country from hopelessness and helplessness? If people do not have a stake in society, what incentive is there for them to uphold law and order, the very basis of the Rule of Law?

16th June is Youth Day. Many of the politicians wax lyrical about young people and stress how important they are to our future. After the applause and the self-satisfaction has died down, how many of those politicians will take active steps to help create an economy that will grow and thus deliver the goods for our unemployed – young and old?

How many of the politicians and, indeed, the unemployed, will ask themselves why the South African economy is such a sad failure? How many of them will ask why it is that countries like the United States of America and the United Kingdom are experiencing a crippling shortage of workers in the aftermath of the Covid crisis?

The unemployment rate in the UK stands at only 4.9%; meaning that there are only 1.7million Britons without work. There are far more jobs than that available to people who have the right skills. In the USA, the unemployment rate is 5.5%. Journalist Hilary Joffe noted recently that in our country the employment rate shows that only 38 people out of every 100 adults (14.9 million people) were in paid employment in the first quarter of 2021. Globally, the norm is closer to 60.

Despite 27 years in power, the “glorious movement” (the ANC) has been unable to come anywhere near the promise of 1994. Do you remember the killer slogan, “jobs, jobs, jobs”? Today, this is the cause of wry laughter. Not only have education standards deteriorated for millions of our children, meaning that they are simply not equipped for a modern economy, but almost every part of the government at every level has got worse, dragging our economy down with it.

Much of the problem is that too many in government still believe that the state should and can do everything. The reality is that our incompetent state can do nothing much right and mostly gets it wrong. Too many in government cling to laughably outdated ideologies imported from Europe that were fashionable – and proved a failure – almost three quarters of a century ago.

If the unemployed would only wake up to their power and the failure of the economic policies forced on our country by this government, and insist on new policies that are job friendly, we could see big changes. The unemployed have the political power to throw out the current failed government and replace it with a party or a combination of parties that would bring in sensible new education and economic policies unleashing private enterprise and promising growth and development and in time, millions of new jobs.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com.

This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.