Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
The job seekers grant proposed by the ANC – in opposing a youth wage subsidy – is a “holding pattern” designed to keep the ANC’s alliance partners happy until its elective conference in December is over, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko has said.
“Tragically, millions of unemployed youths will be stuck in this holding pattern while the ANC’s internal divisions trump the needs of the people once again,” Mazibuko told a press conference at Parliament on Monday to launch the DA’s plan to tackle youth unemployment.
Mazibuko joined DA leader, Helen Zille, and the party’s national chairman, Wilmot James, to launch the DA’s jobs campaign. The DA speakers accused the ANC of succumbing to opposition from its alliance partners after Cosatu blocked the R5 billion youth wage subsidy that was to be implemented this year.
They said the ANC’s lack of political will was leading to a failure to unlock opportunities for young South Africans.
“Because they don’t have the guts to take on Cosatu in the months leading up to Mangaung, ANC leaders have started ‘talking down’ the wage subsidy and ‘talking up’ a job seekers grant,” Mazibuko said.
At its recent policy conference the ANC proposed that the R5bn set aside for the youth subsidy could be used in part to fund the job seekers grant.
But Mazibuko said the party was vague on what the grant would entail “because it hasn’t thought it through properly”.
“The truth is that the job seekers grant proposal is not a genuine attempt at policy making for job creation.”
She said the key aim of the proposed youth wage subsidy was to get unemployed youth on to the first rung of the ladder of the economy.
“On the basis of this foothold, they would gain skills and become productive participants in the economy. This is entirely different from a job seekers grant that would provide no leverage to get young people into the economy. On the contrary, it would provide yet another grant that would entrench unemployment and potentially incentivise young people to stay out of work.”
Mazibuko said the job seekers grant plan was a “misdiagnosis of the problem at the heart of the labour market”.
“It assumes that there are many jobs available for young people, if only they were given the funding to go and find those jobs. But the problem is that these jobs do not exist – chiefly because of the high cost of doing business… and our inflexible labour legislation.”
Mazibuko shrugged off concerns voiced by Cosatu that a wage subsidy would lead to older workers being replaced by younger ones – and that there was no guarantee people would hold on to their jobs once the subsidy ran out.
Research by the Treasury had shown the demand for labour would increase with a youth wage subsidy, she said.
“Besides, there is legislation to prevent substitution in the crude form that Cosatu implies will take place. Labour legislation prevents any employer from retrenching one worker and hiring someone else in that same position. And we have labour legislation that prevents many other possible abuses.”
James said the DA youth unemployment strategy recognised that supply and demand side interventions were needed.
“The focus of the DA policies to ‘up-skill’ the supply side of the labour market is therefore on expanding access to further education and training, to help young people gain industry specific knowledge and experience.”
Central to this, James said, was an opportunity voucher scheme for young adults wanting to start businesses or to further their education and skills development, as well as a range of interventions to boost the supply of productive labour.
On the demand side, the DA would introduce a targeted youth wage subsidy for low-skilled people aged between 18 and 29, available for up to two years and with a maximum value of R12 000 a year.
The DA would also establish a government internship programme based on its successful Western Cape model, in which interns would be hired on contracts to bridge the “study-work” divide and push for enhanced temporary employment.
Describing youth unemployment as South Africa’s most urgent challenge, Zille said getting young South Africans into work was essential to breaking down the divide between insiders and outsiders in the economy.
Asked how confident she was of the DA’s chances of coming into power nationally to implement its policies, Zille said: “The question is not whether the ANC can be beaten, but when. The SA Institute of Race Relations says possibly in 2019; probably in 2024.”
The economy would be the “key dividing issue” in the next few years. “Those who agree on economic interventions to deal with our [jobs] crisis need to get together in the same political party and win an election”.