How to fix the jobs crisis

Yesterday, Statistics SA released unemployment data for July to September 2021. The results are devastating and tragic. But not unexpected. And not inevitable.

660 000 jobs lost. South Africa’s narrow unemployment rate has hit a record high of 34.9%.

But the broad unemployment rate, which includes those who have given up looking for a job, more accurately depicts the real situation on the ground. It is at a high of 46.6% amongst all ages (15-64) and 77.4% amongst young people (15-24). These numbers show the real level of hopelessness, desperation, suffering, disempowerment, deprivation. The real level to which lives and dreams are being ruined.

Devastating and tragic, yes. Surprising, no. Because our current set of policies – the rules by which our economy is forced to operate – code failure into our economic system.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here is what we need do to fix this jobs and humanitarian crisis.

  • Arrest the instigators of the July riots, to prevent and deter any further anarchy, and to reassure investors. The rule of law is essential for economic growth and job creation. This is why I asked him, during parliamentary questions to the President last weeks: “Four and a half months later, with no high profile arrests and no further word on the so-called instigators, can you honestly say to the people of KZN that your government has done its best for them?”
  • Run an extensive vaccine education campaign and enable widespread access by taking vaccines to where people are – main streets, shopping centres, taxi ranks and so forth. And by taking people to where vaccines are – the City of Cape Town, for example, is currently offering free MyCiTi transport to the CTICC mass vaccination centre.
  • Make it clear right now that there will be no further lockdown restrictions in the coming months.
  • Relentlessly root out corruption by firing corrupt public servants, capacitating the NPA, and re-introducing the Scorpions.
  • Restructure SA’s R2 trillion budget away from managerial salaries and waste and towards service delivery infrastructure and social support to the poor. This will stimulate demand while also providing some immediate relief.
  • Appoint public servants based solely on their ability to serve the public.
  • Invest heavily in water, electricity and transport infrastructure.
  • Enable a reliable, affordable, clean supply of energy by opening the energy market. Allow competent metros and municipalities to generate their own power or buy direct from independent producers.
  • Enable cheap, safe, reliable public transport by harnessing the power of capable metros and private companies to solve SA’s public transport problems.
  • Enable cheap data by removing obstacles to digital migration and spectrum auction.
  • Enable small business creation and success by opening up the labour market. Collective bargaining agreements should only apply to those who sign up to them.
  • Remove unnecessary red tape and make South Africa an easy place to do business.
  • Make it easy and attractive for scarce skills and capital to enter and stay in South Africa.
  • Enable high- and medium-density housing close to economic opportunities.
  • Scrap investment-killing policies such as EWC, BEE, NHI, the Mining Charter, localization.
  • Properly train, incentivise and independently evaluate school principals and teachers.

This is how we can code our economy for success. For rapid job-creating growth. We need to tackle each of these challenges, even if it’s hard. This is the kind, compassionate, inclusive way forward.