The South African Federation of Trade Unions is appalled by yet another rise in the rate of unemployment. The statistics for the third quarter of 2018 released in Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey are that unemployment has risen from the already high figure of 27.2% in the second quarter to 27.5%.
The more realistic expanded unemployment rate, which includes discouraged work seekers, increased slightly from 37.2% to 37.3%. This brings the total number of unemployed South Africans to 9.8 million!
The unemployment rate for South Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 remains at the outrageous level of 52.8%.
And worse is to come. The predicted minimal economic growth rate of 0.7% in this year is having the inevitable effect of destroying jobs.
On the very same day as the StatsSA announcement the SABC announced a shocking plan for 981 retrenchments and 1200 non-renewal of contracts for freelancers. The previous day road construction company Raubex said it is to retrench 517 employees.
These two announcements condemn almost 2700 more workers to join the 9.8 million jobless and plunge more than 25 000 dependent family members into poverty.
The biggest job loss occurred in mining, once at the centre of the country’s economy but now in freefall. From 446 000 people employed in the mining industry in the third quarter of 2017, the number has dropped to 406 000, a decrease of 8.9%.
These grim figures will quickly put an end to President Ramaphosa’s false optimism that mining is a ‘sunrise’ industry. AngloAmerican was one of the companies which responded to his call for investment, and they promised to deliver R71.5bn, yet they are one of those most responsible for the industry’s decline as a proportion of national GDP.
In other countries, apart from a few embroiled in civil wars, such levels of unemployment, the poverty it causes and the millions of people living outside the formal economy, would be declared as a national emergency.
Here the contribution of finance minister Tito Mboweni, in his medium-term budget policy address, was to assure business that he was going to get rid of thousands more jobs in the public service!
The Jobs Summit and Investment Conference were nothing but rhetoric and empty promises, from the very capitalist class which has caused the crisis, and their partners in the Presidency, Treasury and the ANC, whose neoliberal policies policies, from GEAR to the National development Plan, have surrendered control of the economy to big business, international financial institution and credit rating agencies.
These latest employment statistics provide further proof that the Working-class Summit on 21-22 July 2018 was an absolutely vital first step to launch a fightback by workers, employed and unemployed, and the poor and marginalised against the catastrophe into which the overwhelming majority of south Africans have been plunged.
The fight must now be stepped up to a new level, to fight to save every job and against the ANC president’s capitalist economic policies to prop up the system of monopoly capitalism that has pauperised the working class, created the widest inequality in the world and is now making the rich even richer and the poor even poorer.
The Summit was absolutely clear that this crisis-ridden capitalist system has to be replaced by a new growth path based on the nationalization of the mines, banks and industrial monopolies and to build a new democratic socialist order, in which the wealth created by the labour of the working class is owned, controlled and shared by the working people and not a super-rich capitalist elite.