South African trade union federations have expressed shock and disappointment at the latest unemployment figures, putting the blame for the continued unemployment crisis squarely at the doorstep of government.
This comes after Statistics South Africa on Tuesday, released the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the third quarter in 2017, showing that the official unemployment rate has remained unchanged quarter-to-quarter at 27.7 percent.
As a result 6.2 million South Africans are now without work — a 75 000 increase from the second quarter of 2017.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said in a statement that this was not surprising because there was no coherent plan to address unemployment and create jobs by the South African government.
“Government has no plan to resolve South Africa’s structural unemployment. Our jobs are disappearing as a result of changes in the structure of the economy and also because the available labour does not have skills or education to occupy existing posts,” Cosatu said.
“This cannot be resolved through wishful thinking but needs deliberate planning and imaginative policy formulation by government. Traditionally, the SA economy has been based on export of raw materials in the agricultural and mineral sector underpinned by cheap labour and slave wages and not on technology.”
StatsSA said the expanded unemployment rate which includes those who wanted to work but did not look for work increased by 0.2 of a percentage point in third quarter of 2017 to 36.8 percent.
People with an education level of less than matric contributed 57.4 percent of the unemployed with unemployment rate of 32.6 percent.
Cosatu said that the majority of the population was discouraged and prevented from occupying skilled jobs through the colour bar act as a result of discriminatory labour market policies and lack of investment in education and skills and technology by South African companies.
The federation said this unemployment situation was likely to get worse because there is currently no sense of urgency in discussing and developing responses to automation and mechanisation in the country.
Meanwhile, the South African Federation of Trade unions (Saftu) said that it was shocked by even higher unemployment just when it seemed that things could get no worse for workers and the poor.
All other industries reported employment growth quarter-to-quarter except manufacturing, construction and agriculture which declined by 50,000, 30,000 and 25,000 respectively.
“For the South African Federation of Trade Unions however, the most worrying statistic of all in the survey is that 105,000 jobs were lost during the quarter in the key manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors,” Saftu said.
“These are the sectors which ought to be creating wealth and driving the economy ahead, but are in fact contracting at an alarming rate and leading to a job-loss bloodbath.”
Saftu said that this was a catastrophe not only for all those workers in, or dependent on, these sectors, but for public service workers as well. The federation said indirectly this continuous increase in unemployment was also having its effect on the employed workers. .
As a result, the federation said it had resolved to mobilise its members in the coming months, starting in November, to hit the streets to protest at the theft of the country’s wealth and to demand genuine radical economic transformation in the interests of workers and the poor.