SAFTU horrified at unemployment rise

The South African Federation of Trade Unions is horrified at the latest employment statistics for the second quarter of 2018. Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey reveals that unemployment has risen from the already shocking figure of 26.7% in the first quarter to 27.2%.

The expanded unemployment rate, which includes discouraged work seekers, increased by 0.5 percentage points to 37.2%. The number of discouraged work seekers increased to 2.9-million people.

The worst statistic of all is that 105,000 jobs were lost in manufacturing, which should be driving the economy forward but in reality is collapsing.  93 000 jobs disappeared in community, social and personal services, and 57 000 in trade.

The only sectors to register increased employment were transport with 54,000 new jobs, construction with 45,000 and mining with 38,000. But these figures follow losses in the first quarter of 41 000 in transport and 14 000 in mining, so these latest figure only slightly offset the long-term job losses in these sectors’

The only tiny glimmer of hope was a reported decline in youth employment, by just 0.6 of a percentage point, but only to the still appalling level of 31.6% among people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Worst of all is that there can be no prospect of any improvement in jobs following a 2.2% contraction in the economy in the first quarter, and the Reserve Bank’s reduction of its prediction for growth in 2018 from 1.7% to 1.2%.

These statistics surely remove any lingering doubts that we are now in the deepest economic catastrophe for decades. Even the pro-business Financial Mail, in an editorial on 19 July 2018 had to admit that “nothing has shifted unemployment from its stubbornly high level of 36.7% (using the expanded definition). Few other democracies could tolerate the human impact of having more than a third of their labour force out of work. Here, we’ve done it for years”!

Not only is unemployment getting worse. Poverty is deepening and and inequality widening.

On the same day that the employment figures were published, the latest monthly report from BankservAfrica revealed that, after taking inflation into account, the average South African salary declined by 2.4% in June from the same month in 2017:

“Real take-home pay for June experienced its largest decline since early 2017 owing to rising inflation and the delay of annual salary adjustments and back-pay in the public sector, the leading employer in SA,” BankservAfrica said. In current prices, salaries grew 2% over the year while inflation was 4.6%, effectively leaving South Africans 2.4% poorer.”

This is the second month running in which BankservAfrica has recorded a monthly fall in real earnings. Last month it reported that real wages increased by 2.8%, but after taking inflation into account, declined by 1.5%”.

Meanwhile City Press revealed on 29 July 2018 that “The top 50 richest people in the inaugural City Press Wealth Index are worth a collective R323 billion – roughly the same as the 2017 gross domestic product of Mozambique and Namibia combined.

“South Africa’s top 49 wealthiest men, and one woman, could use their collective wealth of R329 billion to pay 1 million people the new national minimum wage for eight years.”

It is the equivalent of 7.1% of all the pension savings in the country, based on the national balance sheet statistics published by the SA Reserve Bank.

These 49 men, and one woman, could buy 12% of all the houses in South Africa – and their collective fortunes amount to almost 28% of all the money South African households have in the bank.

The Index also confirmed that “the corporate elite, unsurprisingly, is overwhelmingly white and male” and, even worse,  that this has become much more so in the past 10 years; hence its headline – “SA’s corporate elite – whiter than ever” – In 2008, there were 13 black people in the top 50 wealthiest executives and board members of JSE-listed companies. Now there are five!

These statistics provide further proof that South Africa is indeed one of the most unequal societies in the world.

All these numbers provide further proof that the Working-class Summit on 21-22 July 2018 was absolutely necessary, so that workers, employed and unemployed and the poor and marginalised can start the fight back to escape from this unbelievable crisis

The false optimism which greeted Ramaphosa’s presidency has evaporated. There has been no new dawn, only an even worse nightmare for poor South Africans, as the new president’s neoliberal economic policies are exposed for what they are – policies to prop up the system of monopoly capitalism that has pauperised the working class, created the widest inequality in the world and now making the rich even richer and the poor even poorer.

The Summit was absolutely clear that this rotten capitalist system has to be replaced by 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.

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