President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to solve Africa’s problems, but is unable to solve those in his own country. Picture: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS

PORT ELIZABETH - With South Africa's unemployment rate steady at 29.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019, this country has the fourth-highest unemployment rate out of 182 countries tracked by Trading Economics, after Namibia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Angola.

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) reported that South Africa’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 29.1%, compared to a National Development Plan (NDP) goal of 14% for this year. 

"Despite creating 117,000 formal sector jobs in the fourth quarter, South Africa now has the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the world," PwC said in an article.

It said the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2019 also shows that South Africa's labour force lacks appropriate of sufficient skills, which is a further challenge for the unemployment problem.

But PwC's 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey found that 50% of South African CEOs believe their organisations are making progress in establishing upskilling programmes for their workers.

The NDP, which has failed to reduce the unemployment rate to 14% by 2020, will also leave President Cyril Ramaphosa with a lot to answer for when he delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday. 

While employment declined in, for example, manufacturing and utilities, community and social services – broadly government employment – climbed by 113,000. 

With pressure on the state to cut back on staff costs, this will be a tough nut to chew on for Finance Minister Tito Mboweni when he delivers his Budget Speech 2020.

A point of concern is the 159,000 jobs lost in the (wholesale and retail) trade sector, which is indicative of weak confidence among retailers and consumers. 

Another concern is the 77,000 jobs lost in the informal sector – these are often jobs on the margin of the economy, affecting the poorest of the poor.

The latest Stats SA employment data is released nearly 13 months after the government’s Jobs Summit and 17 months after the release of President Ramaphosa’s economic stimulus and recovery plan. 

Clearly, neither endeavour has had a real positive impact on the country’s employment creation. 

The latest unemployment rate does not reflect the “steady progress in addressing some of the main impediments to job creation” that the president referred to in December 2019 after a meeting of the Presidential Working Committee on Jobs.

President Ramaphosa will speak about employment and skills in his SONA this week. In the previous SONA (delivered in June 2019), he referred to the high youth unemployment rate as a “national crisis that demands urgent, innovative and coordinated solutions”. 

The president should update the nation this week on progress regarding his SONA 2019 pledge for a comprehensive plan - driven and coordinated by the Presidency - to create two million new jobs for young people over the next decade. It is indeed a crisis requiring solutions, PwC said.

African News Agency