SA economy needs to be labour absorbing

Pretoria-While unemployment continues to plague South Africa, reducing it requires the economy to be on a labour absorbing growth path.

“Reducing South Africa’s high levels of unemployment requires the economy to be on a labour-absorbing growth path, as well as the development of entrepreneurship amongst our youth, in terms of interest, skills and creation of opportunities.

This depends on a successful reorientation of the economy to raise labour demand, with matching improvements on the supply side,” said Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe.

The Minister was speaking at the launch of the 2014 Development Indicators in Pretoria on Sunday.

The data in the 2014 report reflects that one in four working age adults actively seeking employment remained unemployed during the period under review.

In 2014, youth unemployment reached a peak of 48.8% amongst the 15-24 year age group and 29.6% amongst the age group 25-34 years of age.

Whereas unemployment is exacerbated by lack of appropriate skills, this is also compounded by the shortage of suitable post-school education opportunities, noted the Minister.

Re-industrialisation and economic diversification are also necessary to boost job creation, and these factors are at the heart of the National Development Plan 2030 (NDP), the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan.

“The stark unemployment figures I have just outlined have continuously spurred government into action, and not into despondency,” said Minister Radebe.

Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP)

Investment in infrastructure have boosted youth employment in construction with the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) having expanded the intake and participation of young people.

The goal of the programme is to provide six million work opportunities by 2019 through the labour intensive delivery of public and community assets and services.

According to the report, employment in the EPWP continues to expand steadily.

“Short-term employment opportunities through the EPWP remain an important intervention to support unemployment working-age adults. In the year 2013/14, the EPWP created more than 1 million work opportunities. Infrastructure has created more work opportunities than other sectors,” noted the report.

While the EPWP has grown substantially with more than three-fold growth in four years, given the country’s focus on decent jobs, this is not sufficient to ensure a skilled, qualified and capable workforce, said Minister Radebe.

The Minister further added that it is not the primary role of government to create jobs, but rather to create an enabling environment for crowding in investments, in terms of the legislative and regulatory dispensation, stimulating economic growth and ensuring a peaceful labour environment, free of exploitation and disruption.

“Jobs created in the public sector are therefore largely a bi-product of successful service delivery, which is our main goal.”

As part of interventions to address the skills deficits, at least 30 000 young people have benefited from internships and learnerships in the public service since the decision to systematically implement this programme in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Industrial Development Corporation and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency have committed a combined R2.7 billion to finance youth-owned enterprises.

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has also supported a range of youth-owned enterprises and cooperatives with more than1 000 youth-owned enterprises having benefited from the support of the NYDA.

The Development Indicators- are an initiative by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and tracks progress made in various areas of development.

There are 86 indicators in all which are clustered in 10 themes ranging from economic growth and transformation, employment, education and safety and security among others.

These indicators are used as criteria to measure progress and assist government to track, using quantitative measures, the effectiveness of government policies and interventions towards achieving the national goals in areas of development.-