Interventions to job cuts, unemployment in the works

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Department of Employment and Labour has begun reviewing its interventions to deal with the threat posed by unemployment and job losses as companies experience financial distress.

While addressing a Public Employment Services (PES) branch strategic workshop in East London, Department Director General Thobile Lamati said this would be through the leveraging of active and passive labour instruments that the department could play a critical role to preserve jobs.

Some of the instruments that the department uses in the job creation space are managed on its behalf by institutions such as the Public Investment Corporation and the Industrial Development Corporation, said the department in a statement.

Lamati identified the importance of the Social Responsible Investment initiative which, he said, was critical to responding urgently to the threat of unemployment or loss of jobs due to companies experiencing financial distress.

He identified instruments such as the High Impact Social Fund and the Project Development Partnership Fund as critical tools in the labour market interventions.

“For all these instruments to have the expected impact, they must be insulated from bureaucracy. Their processes have to be reviewed, shortened to cater for the needs of the clients. I have started a process to review all our interventions in order to sharpen these instruments,” he said.

The department’s PES branch provides assistance to companies and workers to adjust to changing labour market conditions and to regulate private employment agencies.

The PES branch provides public employment services by registering work seekers on the Employment Services System of South Africa (ESSA); providing employment counselling; filling of  registered employment opportunities; processing of complete individual and corporate work visas; registering work opportunities on the employment services of South Africa database and contribute to increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities by providing funding and monitoring disability organisations on an on-going basis.

Lamati said amidst the tough economic times there was a need for structural reforms to reignite the economy.

He said in countries where the economic outlook was a bleak as South Africa, “the only hope is Public Employment Services”.

“Public Employment Services represents a key component of our economic strategy. Given the high levels of informal employment and rising unemployment levels in the country, PES intervention is extremely important in improving job seekers attachment to the labour market; providing employers with adequate assistance in the recruiting process and raising the quality of job matches.”

He said a critical question was how to reposition PES of a newly-reconfigured department.

The reconfiguration of the Department was still an ongoing subject of intense discussion. Some of the options of the reconfiguration of the department on the table include:

  • Using the department’s agencies for job creation initiatives.
  • Using government’s participation through the department at Nedlac to organise stakeholders to promote job creation and pursue Job Summit resolutions; and /or
  • Co-ordinate all government efforts to create jobs and preserve jobs.
  • Position and place the department at the centre of all economic policy debates so that whatever policy government comes up with is intensely scrutinised so that its impact does not have negative effect on job creation.


The Director General said for years the department has been an enforcer of laws and it now needs to re-orientate itself towards the new role of employment creation and preservation.

The department’s PES branch strategic workshop ends on Friday. It is looking at the role of the PES branch in the newly reconfigured department, employment schemes in stimulating and forging linkages between labour activation programs and employment schemes, labour migration policy, future of work and implications to employment services. –