Address by the Minister of Labour, Hon Mildred Nelisiwe Oliphant, MP at the Inaugural Jobs Fair in Eastern Cape
7 Jun 2012
Towards decent work for jobseekers
Premier of the Eastern Cape, Ms Noxolo Kiviet and your MECs
All the national ministers present
Captains of Industry – in public and private sector
Ladies and gentlemen
We meet today in one of the most beautiful provinces of this country to deal with one of our most urgent challenges facing our young democracy.
The problem of unemployment and joblessness is a serious threat to the stability that was achieved post 1994. The problem is made more acute by the fact that the majority of those who are at the receiving end are the young members of society between the ages of 18 and 25. These men and women should be part of the feeder channel into the system of working which mean creating an infusion of young talent into the economic development of this country.
This makes it even more urgent for Government to do its utmost to find ways to mitigate this developing disaster. So our presence here is a testament to that resolve to leave no stone unturned in finding solution to the problem of joblessness.
When one is faced with a problem of this scale, there are many ways that one can choose to respond. One way is to give up because of the sheer immensity of the challenge. One is to blame ghosts of past decades. Or better still, you can go out and put together the best minds to find the way out of the quagmire. In other words, you can choose either to flee or fight. We choose the latter.
The current administration recognises its social contract with the electorate. The mandate handed to us was clear and unambiguous and it is for this reason that we are taking up cudgels to try and find ways of dealing with this problem. But the mandate alone cannot deal with all the problems we face. It gives us the legitimacy and the platform to reach out to other interested and committed partners in business to be part of this proposed solution. We are truly grateful for the willingness shown by industry to partner government in making the difference.
Statistics tell us that over 25% of able men and women in this country cannot find work. In this province, at least 26.9% or just under 500 000 people are unemployed. This figure does not include those who have given up looking for work and when you add this figure, the picture looks bleak indeed.
But the statistics are cold numbers. Behind the statistics are real persons whose lives are not fulfilled. These people cannot feed or clothe their children, send them to school, cannot afford some of the most basic needs that many of us take for granted.
Behind the statistics lies the tales of broken families, a breakdown of the very fabric of the society that we are trying to create but above all, there is a deep sense of indignity. There is no bigger assault on anyone’s dignity than the inability to meet the basic needs because of the scarcity of gainful employment.
Behind each number are at least eight other people who derive their livelihood and sustenance from the main breadwinner.
As Government we feel the pain.
As the Department of Labour, we are enjoined to deliver on the strategic priorities of this administration namely the contribution to decent employment through inclusive economic growth. We have committed to meeting the challenge through increased focus on: Decent work campaign; Public Employment Services; and, Strengthening Social Security and strengthening the institutional capacity of the Department.
We are also doing this through the legislative framework improvements which have seen the department take to Parliament amended Labour Relations and Basic Conditions of Employment legislations. But that is not all. We have also tabled at Nedlac the Employment Services Bill and amendments to the Employment Equity legislation. More changes and amendments are on the way on other pieces of legislation like the Unemployment Insurance, Occupational Health and Safety, Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases.
The proposed amendments are aimed at promoting sound and responsive legislation and policies to attain labour market flexibility for competitiveness of enterprises which is balanced with the promotion of decent employment. In the formulation of these amendments, we acknowledge that fair and speedy labour justice is indispensable to sound industrial peace and favourable climate for investment. Our resolve to recognise and give value to social dialogue towards formulating these sound and responsive policies to attain inclusive growth will not be compromised.
The Jobs Fair is amongst a range of initiatives being rolled out within the ambit of Public Employment Services as part of the Department contribution to Service Delivery Outcomes 4 which calls for: Decent employment through inclusive economic growth.
A joint report by the International Labour Organisation, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on the Boosting Jobs and living standards in the G20 notes that:
For countries that suffered a sharp increase in the unemployment rate and in the incidence of long-term employment, a priority is to limit the risk that as time passes, the long-term unemployed and those who have dropped out of the labour force through discouragement face growing barriers to re-employment. The risk appears particularly strong for youth and low-skilled workers who have been disproportionately affected.
The report further enunciates on policies and interventions that can help address these diverse challenges and particularly urges a focus on “policy packages most likely to yield short-term gains” because pay-off from reforms may take much longer to materialise.
There is a need for a balance here clearly.
The jobs fairs which will be rolled out to all provinces constitute just one of those short-term but sustainable interventions. Other measures proposed by the report include:
- Support infrastructure investments
- Extending the coverage of social protections, and
- Improving job prospects for youth
Some of these proposed interventions are already part of the economic environment. President Zuma has committed government to huge infrastructure spending and this is beginning to roll out. Transnet is one of those state-owned companies at the forefront of this infrastructure rollout. Just recently, CEO Brian Molefe said at least 220 000 jobs will be created in the R300-billion infrastructure rollout. In total, over 500 000 job opportunities will emerge as a result of this spend infusion.
We are extending our social net with the changes that are proposed for the Unemployment Insurance. We are considering improving unemployment benefits through innovative changes to the benefit structure. These changes will be introduced through a proposed bill to Cabinet and bringing to Parliament thereafter.
The UI has invested significant amounts in the IDC run projects which aim as saving as well as creating jobs. A total of R4-billion has been invested. These funds are available to start-up businesses and also support the expansion of existing businesses. Based on approved business plans, the first two bonds of R500-million each have supported the creation 15,056 jobs and the saving of a further 18, 637 jobs.
We have also through the fund set up training and social plan funding in conjunction with National Skills Fund (NSF), the various Sector Education Training Authorities (SETA’s) and Productivity South Africa. Another area of involvement has been the Training Lay-Off Scheme and through this, we have signed funding agreements to the value of R31.11 million from the inception of the scheme up to 31 December 2011 and have paid R9.55 million in training allowances to participating employers and employees. Through this scheme, 18 companies and 4,330 workers have been assisted.
Through the UI, we have also invested heavily in artisanal training with 324 candidates in the metal, engineering, motor and plumbing trades. We entered into a co-funding partnership with the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) on the one hand to subsidise the apprentice training of 1000 unemployed youth, and the Merseta on the other hand to subsidise the training of 1500 unemployed youth (70% UIF Beneficiaries and 30% bona fide job seekers). The idea is to provide candidates with a recognised trade qualification linked to decent job opportunities.
We believe, programme director, that as a department we need to continue learning. To this end, the department has ensured that officials from PES have been exposed to issues discussed on multilateral forums like the G20 Labour and Employment; ILO Youth Employment, International exchanges with the Swedish, German and French governments, the NYDA, Department of Higher Education and Training and other local forums that are involved in addressing youth unemployment related matters.
Extensive experience has been gathered on programmes, initiatives and strategies that were successfully implemented in other countries and it is our resolve to ensure that our country benefits from this knowledge.
Accordingly, Job Fairs form part of a basket of interventions to alleviate the crisis. We want to create opportunities for work seekers to meet with prospective employers and other organisations or departments that can assist with their placement in different forms of employment or learning opportunities.
It would please the department greatly if some of the outcomes from this initiative include:
- Established partnerships with provincial employers and other organisations in the recruitment and placement of work seekers;
- Empowered work seekers with appropriate information and tool kits to secure employment
- Increased number of people engaged in various economic activities
- Shortened turnaround times in filling posts and uptake in available placement opportunities
- Reduced number of work seekers drawing Unemployment Insurance Benefits.
We have invited a number of companies to be part of this initiative. Sincere thanks are due to these companies that have decided to partner government in this important venture. We also like to thank the state-owned companies like Transnet, Eskom, Development Bank of South Africa, the South African Maritime Safety Authority for their role in this noble initiative.
This partnership we see here today gives new and real meaning to the phrase that: Together We Can Do More. Indeed we can and we have started.
I thank you
Issued by: Department of Labour
7 Jun 2012
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