Economic dept calls for a National Jobs Pact

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cape Town - The Department of Economic Development has called for a National Jobs Pact where business, labour and government can come together to tackle South Africa's unemployment.

"We will call for a National Jobs Pact that places employment at the centre of actions by business and government," said Minister for Economic Development Ebrahim Patel, addressing the media shortly before delivering his Budget Vote address in Parliament on Tuesday.

He explained that the idea behind the pact was to transform the industrial relations culture in the country and develop a common goal among stakeholders during the recession.

"Hopefully there is a platform or a very different way in which business and labour can work together and one in which the focus is shifted to saving jobs," said Minister Patel.

The minister said the national jobs pact would translate into key agreements on how to save jobs during the recession at workplace and sector level.

"One of South Africa's comparative advantages is our tradition of social dialogue. We will strengthen it on matters of economic development to achieve national cohesion and bring together the resources of key economic players and mobilize the energies of society," said the minister.

He said this pact would be one of his department's short-term plans once it was fully established.

The minister said the global economic crisis started in the financial sector but had now become a real economy crisis. "The loss of jobs is now the biggest cost the societies are paying for serious policy and design flaws in the global economy."

He said company insolvencies have increased and employment has been severely affected. Claims to the Unemployment Insurance Fund are up by 21 percent and unemployment is rising.

Statistics South Africa's Quarterly Employment Survey reported that 179 000 jobs were lost in the formal non-agricultural sector during the first quarter of 2009.

"Given that employment is a lagging indicator, the recession will cause further damage to job numbers and we have not seen the bottom of the employment losses. To counter these serious economic challenges, we have negotiated an important framework agreement on responses to this crisis."

He said South Africa was facing a long-term employment and social deficits.