Bisho – The Eastern Cape Provincial Government exceeded its own target when it created close to 110 000 job opportunities by end of last year through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
But officials say the high unemployment rate in the province remains a concern.
Premier Noxolo Kiviet, in her State of the Province Address on Friday, said more than R24 million was set aside to support 27 struggling companies with R10.5 million having been disbursed to companies where 2 460 jobs were saved.
In addition, 2 622 people across the province were trained in technical and life skills through the EPWP. But Kiviet was cautiously optimistic in her assessment saying unemployment in the province remained unacceptably high at 29.8% at the end of 2012.
To add to the province’s woes, the Census 2011 results, which were released in October 2012, show a decline in the province’s population as a result of outward migration to other provinces. Subsequently this has had a negative impact on the budget allocation of the province, which has declined by R5.1 billion over the medium term.
The provincial government was also monitoring the situation in the mining sector whose majority of employees come from the Eastern Cape.
“When these mines retrench, a number of families in the province are directly affected. We will therefore support all efforts aimed at staving off mining retrenchments, including involving the mining sector in the broader development of the province,” Kiviet said.
Despite its challenges, it is worth noting that more than 387 000 young people have been employed in the Eastern Cape since 2010, representing an increase of more than 25 000 per annum.
This placed the province number three in youth employment in the country after Gauteng and Limpopo, according to Economic Development Minister Ibrahim Patel.
The figure is considered an achievement considering that the province’s GDP growth dropped from the recovery figure of 3.4% in 2011 and is expected to remain at below 3% for this year. Kiviet said authorities expected key infrastructure projects and private investments to solidify to pre-crisis levels of above 4% by2015.
The premier added that in recognition of the challenges, the government had initiated a number of programmes to ensure young people had access to economic development opportunities.
These include maintaining a database of unemployed graduates in the province, facilitating access to student loans as well as enrolling unemployed youths in learnership programmes. – SAnews.gov.za