False to cheer new job figures

Scepticism is understandable when assessing Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, which says unemployment dropped by 0.4% to 24.1% in the last quarter of 2013.

Jobs are a hot issue politically, as we saw from yesterday’s DA march in Johannesburg. On several occasions since his 2009 inauguration, President Jacob Zuma has made extravagant pledges about how many jobs will be created. He’s been wrong every time.

So, with an election in the offing, it suits the ANC to have official statistics which point to some improvement, however modest, in unemployment. Releasing the report on Tuesday, Statistician General Pali Lehohla also said year-on-year employment increased by 653 000 from the fourth quarter in 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013.

This rosy picture does not square with more pessimistic figures released by labour specialists Adcorp on Monday, saying retrenchments have reached a 10-year high and that 36 290 positions were lost in January alone. Nor does StatsSA’s good news make sense in relation to the country’s sluggish economic growth.

In fact, Business Day quotes HSBC economist David Faulkner telling clients: “We remain circumspect about apparently rapid job growth in South Africa given the marked deceleration in economic growth during 2013”.

Whichever way you look at it, even with StatsSA’s figures, there are still at least 4.8 million people actively looking for work. Untold numbers have effectively given up looking.

In a volatile, unequal society, these numbers are worrying. The 6% unemployment rate by 2030 envisaged in National Development Plan is unattainable without meaningful changes. The biggest obstacle is a labour law regime which protects unproductive, non-performing workers. Bosses are reluctant to hire if they can’t fire.

For genuine job creation we need a governing party not beholden to job-stifling unions.

today in print

today in print