South Africa’s millions of unemployed workers will find nothing to cheer about in the employment statistics in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey released by Statistics South Africa on Tuesday 15 May 2018, says the South African Federation of Trade Unions.
The ‘official’ unemployment rate, which excludes those no longer looking for work, remained at 26.7% in the first quarter 2018, exactly the same as in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Despite the creation of 206 000 new jobs in the quarter, the number of persons without jobs rose by 100 000 to 5.98 million, because the working-age population increased by 153,000 or 0.4% in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.
The expanded unemployment rate, which includes every worker without a job, rose by 0.4% in the first quarter, from 36.3% to 36.7%. The number of these discouraged work-seekers increased by 249,000.
This leaves South Africa with still one of the highest rates of unemployment in the world. Employment declines were recorded in Transport (41 000), Mining (14 000), Utilities (6 000) and Agriculture (3 000).
The worst statistic remains the fact that almost one in three young South Africans between 15-24 were not in employment, education or training in the first quarter of 2018. Although there was no change in the percentage of 32,4% (approximately 3,3 million out of a total of 10.3 million) the figure is still utterly outrageous. A third of the country’s young people are effectively excluded from any activity in the economic life of South Africa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has talked a lot about these problems and promised us a ‘new dawn’, but the workers are not going to see that new dawn if he continues to imagine that the capitalist free-market economy is going to turn his words into deeds.
The loss of 14 000 jobs in mining alone, in just one quarter of a year, shows how utopian it is to believe that the big monopolies that run our economy will suddenly start creating jobs. They, and all the other global monopolies’ are only interested in maximizing short-term profits.
The President last month announced a plan to attract $100bn investment to the country over the next five years, which he hoped would to boost economic growth and create jobs. He has launched a Youth Employment Service (YES) in March, which aims to alleviate youth unemployment through internships.
This, he says, will be a partnership between government, business and organised labour, his latest attempt to draw union leaders into a social compact to create the illusion that government, employers and workers have a common interest.
The Nedlac deal on the poverty minimum wage shows where this leads – to class collaboration and the worker being disarmed by their own leaders and forced to live with policies in the interests of big business and their political allies.
Ramaphosa has promised to continue with the policies of successive Finance Ministers and the Treasury of bending to the dictates of the capitalist class and their enforcers, the credit ratings agencies, to pull the country out of its crisis.
They will not; and these employment statistics provide further justification for SAFTU’s conviction that the only way to escape from the shocking level of unemployment and the consequent extent of poverty and inequality is a fundamental change of policy.
We have to end the syphoning of money out of the country by business speculators, and reinvest it in reviving manufacturing industry, beneficiation of minerals, nationalisation of the mines, banks and land, ending all corruption and other economic crimes in both public and private sectors, and creating a socialist economy in which the country’s wealth is owned and controlled by the people and employment for all is a right and a realty.