Today’s budget speech gave a little more detail on how the state machinery will stimulate the economy and use the resources available to make the promise a reality.
With a 13.1% increase over the next three years, the employment and social security function is the biggest winner in the budget.
Social spending will not be scaled down, but there will be a shift towards infrastructure spending.
This, as well as strategic spending focus areas such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and the introduction of the youth employment tax incentive, will further boost the country’s employment levels.
A total of R10.4 billion has been set aside for employment programmes in this year’s budget.
Job creation has been a major focus area in most party political manifestos in lieu of the upcoming elections. Earlier this month the DA’s “real jobs” march in the Johannesburg CBD lead to clashes with opposing ANC supporters.
Julius Malema’s EFF has also focused hard on the employment rhetoric, promising significant increases in minimum wages.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan spent some time in his prepared speech looking at the achievements of the current administration, saying “we have more than recovered the jobs that were lost.”
“Government has spent more than R100 billion on employment programmes over the past five years, including municipal and provincial spending,” Gordhan said.
“More than 4 million job opportunities were funded over this time. Allocations will continue to grow strongly, and 6 million job opportunities will be created over the next five years.”
While the six million jobs will be short- to medium-term, Gordhan also mentioned a number of other economic interventions that are expected to create jobs. These included the special economic zones which will be introduced in the near future, increased education and skills training spending, and a number of interventions aimed at small and medium sized enterprises.
A number of interventions to ease the regulatory burden on the private sector were mooted in the speech as “employment creation is mainly the responsibility of the private sector”.
Said Gordhan: “Government will continue to provide an enabling environment for businesses to grow and create employment”.
Government will also implement a Community Work Programme in every municipality by 2017. The programme has been allocated R2.2 billion in the coming financial year, increasing to R3.7 billion in 2016.
In addition, the Labour Department “has introduced proposals to extend unemployment benefits from 238 to 365 days, on condition that claimants are actively seeking work”.