Cosatu has warned that the unemployment rate has worsened over the past few months despite lockdown measures being eased.
The trade union federation yesterday urged President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to revive the economy through the recovery plan that was tabled last year by the president. Other opposition parties agreed that this was a serious situation.
It emerged yesterday that the unemployment rate increased by half a percentage point to 34.9% in the third quarter of 2021 – the highest since 2008, according to the quarterly labour force survey.
The quarterly labour force survey, released by Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke, showed that the number of employed persons decreased by 660 000 in the third quarter of 2021 to 14.3 million.
“The number of unemployed persons decreased by 183 000 to 7.6 million compared with the second quarter of 2021,” the report said.
The survey found that the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 545 000 (16.4%).
The number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement increased by 443 000 (3.3%) between the two quarters, resulting in a net increase of 988 000 in the not economically active population.
Cosatu said the unemployment statistics continued to worsen regardless of growth rates after the relaxation of the hard lock down levels since the second quarter of 2020.
“This goes to the heart of the non-employment-generating growth trajectory of the country that must be addressed through the reconstruction of the economy,” spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.
Pamla said the country’s economy was vulnerable due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the potential of travel bans by the rest of the world.
He also said South Africa was vulnerable to Covid-19 variants because of the low level of vaccine uptake by members of society.
“The only way to protect lives, over and above the non-pharmaceutical measures, is to ramp up the vaccine drive to achieve community immunity. Vaccination becomes a tool not only to save lives, but also to save livelihoods and jobs.”
Pamla also said the economic recovery and reconstruction plan had not yielded the employment numbers necessary to reduce the level of unemployment.
“This is because localisation and manufacturing initiatives have yet to be realised. The manufacturing sector remains a key component and the backbone of any industrialised economy.
“Business and the government must come together to realise the commitments for local manufacturing at a rate and scale that can absorb labour and drastically drive down the unemployment rate.”
He added that load shedding costs the country billions of rand in revenue each day, and as a result worsened unemployment levels.
“The proposals to increase Eskom’s energy generation are a step in the right direction, but it will amount to nothing if the debt crisis continues to be an albatross around the neck of the power utility,” Pamla said.
DA MP Michael Cardo said the survey indicated a worsening pandemic of joblessness.
Cardo said that instead of sitting on his hands and allowing job losses to mutate and multiply, President Cyril Ramaphosa should treat this as a public health emergency.
“It is a national disaster. His government should institute measures to revive the economy, liberalise the labour market and foster an environment conducive to job-creation,” he said.
Cardo also said Ramaphosa’s administration should begin to tackle job creation by reforming the onerous labour laws and freeing up the labour market to make it more flexible and absorptive.
He said the government needed to take the hard decisions that would begin to arrest economic decline, like abandoning the malevolent mining charter, fixing Eskom and bolstering the energy supply.
“Load shedding is having a devastating effect on the economy and jobs. The government should ditch its hare-brained localisation scheme, which will lead to further job losses,” he added.
Freedom Front Plus MP Heloïse Denner said the rise in the official unemployment rate since the second quarter of this year should come as no surprise to the government.
Denner said the latest figures reflected the consequences of the July unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which resulted in the loss of many job opportunities. She also said her party re-emphasised the importance of the private sector in bringing about economic growth.
“This sector must be helped, cherished and encouraged. At the moment, though, quite the opposite is happening,” she said.