Addressing the unemployment challenge

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Whether young or old, unemployment is a thorn in the flesh of many South Africans, writes Neo Semono.

Whether in our families or within our circle of friends, many of us know someone who is without a job. The situation is so dire that we may even know more than one individual who does not have a job, and it is not due to the lack of trying nor to the lack of qualifications.

Those who are unemployed want to wake up in the morning to go and make an honest living for themselves and their loved ones. Through their work, they also want to make a difference in the country that they live in.

Recent data has shown that the country’s joblessness rate has come down slightly. Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) has shown that the unemployment rate decreased from 32.9% in the first quarter to 32.6% in the second quarter of 2023.

Granted, the figure is marginal - but 154 000 new jobs were created in the second quarter, taking the number of employed persons to 16.3 million - a flicker of hope for those who may have given up on finding work.

Finding a job is hard and is further exacerbated by the costs that job seekers may not be able to cover. In the quest to find jobs, money is borrowed to visit internet cafes to search and apply for work, to printout CVs and to drop off said applications at prospective employer’s offices.

Having altered the CV more times than one can remember, and filing out more online applications and Z83 forms, hope and confidence take a knock when one does not get that invitation to a job interview.

While that hope is sometimes on shaky ground, South Africans don’t quit. Instead, they make a plan, even if it means taking on any job to make ends meet. Some go on to start innovative businesses that change their local landscapes while also giving jobs and training to others in their respective communities.

This speaks to the innate resilience of the people of this country in that individuals not only deviate from their original life plan, but that they also give work opportunities to others who may not have had the opportunity to put a foot in the door of larger establishments minus the required skills.

While one will always find fault with government, it cannot resolve the unemployment challenge on its own. And while it should have done better in tackling it, it is doing something about it.

This includes the employment of people with disabilities. Through the Presidential Working Group on Disability, government is working on increasing funding for disability-related programmes and services. This includes funding for the education, training and employment of people with disabilities.

Well aware of the unemployment problem particularly around the youth, government has put in place the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI). Through the initiative announced in 2020, at least 135 000 earning opportunities were secured by young people.

The Department of Employment and Labour--which has labour offices across the country-- offers tips on how to find a job and how to fill out the Z83 form. It also has career counsellors to assist job seekers in preparing for interviews and other career related services for free.

Mobile employment centres are also available to assist work seekers to sign up for the Employment Services System of South Africa (ESSA) which is a platform where work seekers are matched with available job opportunities for free.

Other government initiatives to get particularly young people into work include the Gauteng government’s Nasi Ispan ("Here is work") mass recruitment programme that aims to get thousands of young people into state jobs.

The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) which has been in existence for close to two decades continues to make a difference in people’s lives. It provides an important avenue for labour-absorption and income to poor households in the short to medium-term.

The implementation of government plans is also making an impact with the Poultry Masterplan which contributed to the creation of 750 jobs at a Rainbow Chicken facility.

The adoption of the masterplan saw government implement several measures to safeguard the local industry including placing anti-dumping duties on imported poultry.

This is the same Rainbow Chicken which in 2017 closed its operations in Hammarsdale and retrenched over a thousand workers.

The adoption of the plan was also coupled with increased investment and measures to transform the industry has led to success with the company reopening and investing R220 million.

Government is not just talking the talk; it is also putting in the work for its people who have a never say die attitude. –