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Government focused on tackling unemployment

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Government remains committed to accelerating its interventions aimed at unlocking investment opportunities, growing the economy and creating much-needed jobs.

“As a country we have placed economic growth and job creation at the centre of our national agenda. Local and foreign investments play an important role in growing our economy and creating sustainable jobs.

“Investments significantly contribute to our national goals of socio-economic development in breaking the back of poverty, unemployment and inequality,” GCIS Acting Director-General Phumla Williams said on Tuesday.

Williams’s remarks come after the release of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2019 by Statistics South Africa.

The report revealed that South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 0.5 of a percentage point to 27.6% compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.

The increase in the unemployment rate is a result of a decline of 237 000 in the number of people in employment and an increase of 62 000 in the number of people who were unemployed between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019.

The South African working-age population increased by 149 000 in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the fourth quarter of 2018. The labour force decreased by 176 000. The results further indicate that the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by (156 000) and the other not economically active population by 169 000 resulting in the net increase of 325 000 in the number of those who were not economically active.

A decline in employment was observed in all sectors (Formal sector, Informal sector, Agriculture and Private households) in the first quarter of 2019, compared to the fourth quarter of 2018. The net loss of 237 000 in the number of people in employment was mainly driven by Construction (142 000), followed by Finance (94 000), Community and social services (50 000), Private households (31 000), Mining (20 000) and Agriculture (12 000). Employment gains were recorded in Transport (59 000), Trade (25 000), Utilities (16 000) and Manufacturing (14 000).

There were approximately 10.3 million persons aged 15–24 years in the first quarter of 2019. Between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, the percentage of young persons aged 15–24 years who were not in employment, education or training (NEET) increased by 2.1 percentage points to 33.2% (3,4 million). Of the 20.3 million young people aged 15-34 years, 40.7% were not in employment, education or training (NEET) – an increase by 1.8 percentage points compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.

Countering unemployment

Williams said the high rate of unemployment is a serious concern to government.

As such, decisive steps are also being taken, including rebuilding investor confidence, ending corruption and State capture, restoring good governance and strengthening critical public institutions.

However, Williams cautioned that the challenge requires all sectors of society to work together.

“All South Africans must join hands and make an extraordinary effort to overcome the economic challenges we face. The South African economy must grow at a higher rate in order to create enough jobs and lift people out of poverty,” Williams said.

Key among government interventions was the Youth Employment Service, Jobs Summit, Economic Stimulus recovery plan and Investment Conference, which are short and long-term measures put in place to reignite the economy.

The Jobs Summit, which was held in October 2018, brought together government, business, labour and community organisations to seek solutions to South Africa’s unemployment challenge. It also provided a platform for open discussion on the challenges faced by each social partner in the creation of jobs.

The National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) social partners agree that the Presidential Jobs Summit emerged with a framework agreement that is both ambitious and realisable.

Through the Jobs Summit, government, labour, business and the community sector agreed on concrete interventions to boost employment. It’s estimated that these interventions will create an additional 275 000 direct jobs a year.

The inaugural South Africa Investment Conference was also another boost which generated announcements of investments to the tune of R290 billion.

Williams said this marked the beginning of a new narrative on investment in South Africa.

“The South Africa Investment Conference was an expression of a shared hope and a renewed confidence. It made a bold and unequivocal statement that we are determined to put behind us the period of uncertainty and discord and embrace a future of cooperation and partnership.”

With the successful 2019 National and Provincial Elections, Williams said the new administration brings forth a new wave of renewal and positivity.

“It reaffirms the stability that investors have been accustomed to since the start of our democracy. In refreshing our democratic mandate, South Africans have committed the country to build on its sound financial and economic policies,” she said.

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