Just as South Africa enters its biggest political crisis for years, with the vote of no confidence in President Zuma in Parliament on 8 August, we have been hit by a grim reminder of the country’s biggest economic crisis – the massacre of jobs.
According to the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey from Stats SA there was a net loss of 113,000 jobs between the first and second quarters of the year. The absolute number of unemployed workers was down slightly to 6.177 million from 6.214 million, though the rate of unemployment remained at 27.7%, still at the highest level for 14 years.
The more realistic expanded definition of unemployment, which includes an extra 3.1 million people who were available to work, but did not look for work during the reference period rose slightly to 36.6%, from 36.4% in the previous quarter.
The number of active job seekers has declined by 37,000 people to approximately 6.3 million, reducing South Africa’s labour force participation rate to 59.9%, from 60.5% in the first quarter.
The survey’s most worrying statistic is that there are approximately 9.3 million people aged 15-64 who wanted to work and were available to work, but their labour was not used. The non-economically active population increased by 306 000, of which 83 000 were discouraged work-seekers.
Employment declined in three of the four sectors: The largest decreases were in construction (110,000) and agriculture (40,000).
There were employment gains in trade (58,000), finance (17,000), manufacturing (10,000) and utilities (2,000), but easily the biggest employment gains were recorded in the informal sector (80 000), proof of the high level of casualisation of labour with more workers forced into insecure and low-paid jobs.
Also worrying is that the largest employment losses were recorded in areas previously less affected by the job-loss crisis, notably Gauteng, with 143,000 fewer jobs, while on the other hand poor provinces – Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal – saw employment gains of 32,000 and 29,000 respectively.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions is most alarming by the fact that even more job losses have been taking place and will feed into the next StatsSA quarterly report.
In the period between July 2014 and June this year, 25 000 people lost jobs in the metals and engineering sectors.
The mining industry has shed 70,000 jobs over the past five years. AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third-largest gold miner, could cut up to 8,500 jobs, or a third of its South African workforce, as two unprofitable mines reach the end of their lives. Sibanye mining also wants to lose 7 400 jobs
The poultry sector is losing hundreds of jobs as a result of dumping of cheap products from the USA and Europe, made even worse by the spread of bird flu. It is estimated that as many as 20 000 jobs in the sector are at risk. Pick n Pay have just cut their workforce by 10%. African bank is to get rid of 636 jobs. The list goes on.
What statistics always hide is the human misery behind them. On average every employed worker supports 15 dependents. So 113 000 lost jobs means that well over one and a half million people will suffer financial loss and fall into the growing pool of those living in absolute poverty.
This is the price that workers and the poor are paying for the ANC government’s adoption of neo-capitalist economic policies, dictated by the global financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF, and the credit ratings agencies, made even worse by the looting of the economy by the Gupta/Zuma corrupt mafia and all its cronies.
It has led to the down-grading of the economy to the status of ‘junk’ and the economy not growing at all but declining, which will ensure that the plight of the poor majority will get even worse in the years ahead, while their rich exploiters, correctly defined as white monopoly capital, get richer and richer.
Tragically the only program to take us out of this crisis – radical economic transformation – has been misappropriated by the very people who have caused the crisis in the first place by implementing policies that are the exact opposite of either radials or transformative – Gear and the National Development Plan – which prop up the bankrupt monopoly capitalist exploiters.
SAFTU knows that the only way to save the situation is to adopt real, genuine socialist economic transformation to take power into the hands of the majority – the workers and the poor by nationalising key monopolies in mining, finance and industry and running them democratically and accountably, under a plan of production which will shift the country’s wealth to be shared by and used for the benefit of all South Africans.