The fourth quarter 2020 StatsSA Quarterly Labour Force Survey vindicates SAFTU’s decision to work ever more actively with the unemployed masses and other formations of the working class: we are embarking on a general strike and stayaway on 24 February against government neoliberalism. Beyond this, we aim to unite all working-class formations so as to force capital and the government to abandon neoliberalism and the austerity measures that have dismally failed.
The figures published by StatsSA on 23 February paint a horrific picture of a pandemic that continues to discriminate against our people based on their race, gender, age and geographical locations – and above all, their class location as exploited workers.
Thanks to the state’s incompetence and its immoral disregard for poor and working-class lives, there were 1.4 million fewer jobs as we entered 2021 than a year earlier, even after hundreds of thousands of minimum-wage workers were hired by the state. President Ramaphosa’s interventions are simply inadequate.
Although we know StatsSA still has profound flaws in their definitions, methodology and neocolonial perspective – as we have discussed before – the figures from the QLFS are sobering. Key lowlights include the following findings:
- Unemployment measured in a narrow way has worsened from 30.8% to 32.5%. But the real story is that when using the expanded definition of unemployment, in which people have simply given up the search, the situation is absolutely catastrophic: the highest-ever recorded rate of South African joblessness, at 42.6%
- When it comes to race, the minimalist unemployment rate has worsened to:
- African 36.5%
- Coloured 25.7%
- Asian 11.8%
- White 8.8%
- The face of this tragedy continues to be the young people of our country. The future is being stolen as more and more are forced into a life of alcohol and drug abuse which itself has become a pandemic.
- Unemployment of those between the ages of 15 to 24 is at a frightening 63.2%
- For those between 24 – 34, unemployment is a staggering 41.2%
- For those between 35 – 44 the rate is 27.4%
- Unemployment continues to afflict women more than men as demonstrated by the expanded definition of unemployment: a rate of 46.3% as against 39.4% for men. For African/Black women unemployment is a whopping 47.4%. It is 33.5% for so-called Coloured women (whom in our view form part of the Black masses), compared with 17.6% for so-called Asian women and 11.3% for white women. We insist that a genuinely post-apartheid South African society must address the reasons for structured patriarchy. We know that in employment, sexism continues. And in the ‘social reproduction’ system – in which women are expected to help infants and children grow up safe and sound, to ensure men get to work fed and rested, and to care for older people – there is simply not enough support. A good government would make this a top priority, along with eradicating gender-based violence.
- The legacy of apartheid is vividly apparent, in terms of the ‘labour reserves’ from the former Bantustans where a despicable spatial underdevelopment worsens. Of the nine provinces, seven have unemployment rates of over 40% with the Eastern Cape – host of two repressive Bantustans – leading the pack with a frightening 52.4% unemployment rate.
SAFTU appeals to workers of our country to heed the call for a stayaway tomorrow. A strong statement has to be made that the current situation is simply not sustainable. We are risking a civil war: a bomb of social anger continues to tick. To some extent this is reflected in the 6% increase in crime announced by the Minister of Safety and Security; even before this increase, the murder rate was 58 a day on average.
SAFTU continues to insist that in order to defuse the timebomb, the entire architecture of our economy must be overhauled, so that it can be based on meeting the basic needs of workers for jobs at a living wage, comfortable housing, food sovereignty and land redistribution, access to public and household services, an end to evictions and service disconnections, free quality education from childcare to university, the bridging of the digital divide, recreational opportunities, subsidies for creches and National Health Insurance funding to ensure dignified care.
But what we anticipate from Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is the opposite: cut-backs in all of these because he won’t accept the need to tax the rich, halt illicit financial flows, tighten exchange controls, end widespread procurement fraud, regulate the financial sector seriously, lower interest rates, and invoke Quantitative Easing so Reserve Bank financing of the deficit finally appears here as it has in most other economies.
In all these respects we are both furious in anticipation and determined to keep fighting. The strike and stayaway tomorrow are steps towards a full united effort to topple the ongoing corruption, neoliberalism and austerity that the Ramaphosa government has come to represent.