Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim. File photo: Steve Lawrence

Johannesburg - Youth unemployment in South Africa is the third-highest in the world, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said on Monday.

"About 71 percent of all unemployed people in South Africa are between the ages of 15 to 29. Most of the them are women, the majority of which have never had a job in their lives," said Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim.

He said South Africa ranked third after Greece and Spain in terms of unemployment.

"Half of the people between 15-29 are unemployed in this country."

The union would stage a protest march in seven cities on Wednesday to highlight youth unemployment and demand solutions.

The union wanted the Employment Tax Incentive Act scrapped.

Jim said the act stated that no incentive would be paid in respect of employees earning more than R6000 a month.

President Jacob Zuma signed the Employment Tax Incentive Act in December.

The Act encourages private employers to employ young workers by providing a tax incentive to employers, with government sharing the costs of such employment for a maximum of two years under certain conditions.

"The bulk of the qualifying employees in terms of the act pay no tax as the current tax threshold is R67 111," he said.

"This means that an employer can withhold the subsidy he is entitled to from the general tax deduction. We are opposed to the schemes where the working class is forced to subsidise capitalists."

He said the youth subsidy was an attack on workers.

"We are fighting back the onslaught of the ANC government against the workers."

Government was able to create jobs instead of delivering youth to the door of employers to be exploited.

"The Act is based on the assumption that it is 'high' wages that are causing unemployment and not the refusal of the capitalists to invest that leads to joblessness."

Jim said the architects of the Employment Tax Incentive Act were silent about the "investment strike" by the private sector that had been going on in South Africa for many years.

"No one seems to be able to put a figure on this but there is little disagreement that it exists. It is the problem of the refusal to invest on the part of the capitalist class that government refuses to tackle head on," he said.

"It is this avoidance of the real problem that leads them to false solutions such as the tax incentive scheme."

Numsa's protest would be joined by a number of civil organisations.

The union said this was the first of a series of mass action events until 2016.