The ANC has declared war on unemployment and plans to introduce a three-shift system to keep the economy going, create jobs and reduce joblessness by 13.6% in the next five years, a move that an analyst believes is a bold, though possibly overly optimistic, one.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga says the governing party has realised the urgency of fighting unemployment head-on. He said the ANC’s move to declare unemployment a national emergency and a national disaster showed the party was aware of the impact of joblessness and that something urgent needed to be done about it.
“This shows that the government is aware of what’s happening and it is showing a sense of urgency,” he said. “It is, however, necessary that the government implements policies efficiently so as to address the problem.”
Mathekga was reacting to the announcement by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule that the national executive committee lekgotla, which sat at the weekend in Tshwane, resolved to reduce unemployment from the current 27.6% to 14% in the next five years.
That’s a reduction of 13.5%, which appeared unlikely considering the jobless rate remained between 23% and the current 27.6% for a number of years and, instead of going down, it has kept in the opposite direction. But Magashule was confident, saying this was part of the ANC’s bigger plan to deal with unemployment, especially among the youth.
“The lekgotla agreed that unemployment is a national emergency, it agreed to reduce the unemployment from 27.6% to 14% in the next five years while focussing on skilling and reskilling programmes to 3.5 million young South Africans.
“The ANC plans to achieve massive job creation on the back of the industrial strategy, job summit initiatives, Operation Phakisa and private-public growth initiative,” he added.
The focus on the reimagined industrial strategy, which was export-oriented and targeted labour-intensive sectors, would be economic diversification and investment in targeted sectors. He mentioned 10 sectors that included automotive, clothing and textile, steel and metal fabrication, tourism, hi-tech, creative industry, ocean economy and agriculture and agro-processing.
Job creation is one of the seven areas that the party planned to implement during the term of the new sixth administration under President Cyril Ramaphosa.
This was part of the ANC’s economic transformation, which is accompanied by other areas such as education and skills, health, social transformation, and the building of new towns while pursuing the idea of building a developmental state, among other things.
“The focus of this sixth administration is on the accelerated implementation, working with all South Africans,” Magashule said.
He didn’t give details about how this would be achieved except to say “targets are targets”. Citing the example of China, Magashule said many economies in the world set targets but never gave up when the set figures were not achieved until they achieved them and grew.
The ANC administration, he added, would explore the adoption of an employment policy, particularly in the low skills areas with a focus on information and communications technology skills.
“We will get the government to declare a three-shift economy to increase the prospects of employment, especially among the young people,” he said.
“Working together with labour and business, a three-shift system will result into an economy that does not sleep.”
In the same vein, the party reiterated its promise to ensure that the requirement for work experience for young people in entry-level jobs would be waived and that the private sector would be encouraged to follow suit.
The pronouncement coincided with the bad news that the gross domestic product (GDP) had contracted by 3.2%, the biggest decline in a decade. Labour federation Cosatu’s national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla expressed disappointment at the GDP contraction.
“We will be lying if we were to say that this is shocking, because there is nothing drastic that has been done to kickstart the economy,” Pamla said.
“The country is reaping the rewards of the National Treasury’s dogmatic adherence to the neoliberal capitalist trajectory of the late 20th century. It is now clear that the neoliberal policies based on ‘market forces’ and international competitiveness are not going to solve our economic problems. These policies have seen more and more people sliding into poverty in this country.”