President Jacob Zuma has called for ‘renewed action’ in addressing unemployment which has become the greatest challenge facing the South African government. He said although the country ‘came out smoother from the great depression’, its effects are still being felt in the economy and would continue to throttle economic growth for much longer if nothing is done to revolutionalize Africa’s biggest economy.
Business Report quoted him as saying, “As we predicted, although the economy was turning positive, the impact of the recession might still lead to some more job losses.” A survey conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently showed that “unemployment in South Africa is likely to remain relatively high for a considerable period.”
Meanwhile, official statistics show that a total of 4.3 million South Africans were unemployed at the first quarter of 2010, which is a quarter of the total population. Among these, are job seekers who have qualifications.
A report released by the National Labor and Economic Development Institute show that “unemployment rate among secondary school graduates rose from 27% to 45% and, among persons with higher education; it rose from 6% to 13%. The International Labor Organization says higher levels of unemployment among young people are a global trend, suggesting that the causes aren’t specific. Whether it’s a problem of a poorly educated workforce, lack of skills, shadow of apartheid or restrictive labor laws, sky high unemployment has devastating effects on the lives of million South Africans who cannot get jobs.
The pain of not being able to get a job after depriving yourself sleep and fun in a desperate attempt to leave days of going to bed in an empty stomach behind, by getting a qualification, is far worse.
Thandi Lebelwane is a graduate from the University of Witwatersrand where she studied Health Sciences. Having grown up in one of most rural and underdeveloped areas in the country, Ntumbane, in Kwazulu Natal, she dreamt of staying in a town house, with running water, electricity and a toilet. She also dreamt of having her own car, with a personalized registration. When she got a letter of admission into the faculty of health, where she enrolled for a degree in pharmacology, she new her dream would soon turn into a reality.
The unemployed mother of one, who works as a saleslady for a clothing shop, in Randburg, owned by her Nigerian boyfriend, is among the 12.9 % discouraged work seekers, who have been let down by a system they call their own, affirmative action. She said the reason she cannot get a job offer is because her would be employers preferred someone who has experience, which does not convince the desperate degree holder who blames her bad luck on her skin color. She argues that white employers would rather recruit a foreigner than a black South African. “It’s a pity that our government expects the very same people who were forced out of their jobs after independence to hire black South Africans. In a country where the private hospitals and clinics are owned by whites, what are chances of a black getting a job,”? she said.
“It’s not just a problem of skills shortage or mismatch. The same people who were forced out of their jobs to give blacks who were disadvantaged by the apartheid regime were forced to start their own business. They have ownership or some control in most businesses in the private sector. It is natural for them to want to protect their business from the so called previously disadvantaged groups. That is why it is not easy for them to hire educated young black South Africans, as they are likely to overthrow them from their businesses. Besides that, affirmative action victims feel that they need to support each other and employ other whites who have slim chances of getting jobs in government departments and parastatals0020s4,” said the Chief Executive Officer for LBD Solutions, Benjamin Denga, who is also an Economist.
Meanwhile, it seems to be easy for foreigners to get jobs in the private sector. Parmida Sithole, a Zimbabwean, managed to get a job in a private hospital in Randburg where she dispenses medication to patients, despite having been in the country for only 6 weeks. An investigation about her qualification revealed that she is not qualified to work as a pharmacist, as she obtained her degree qualification from a defunct private university from her home country.
An officer from the department of labor, in Braamfontein, who spoke on anonymity said as much as government has put in place policies aimed redressing the inequalities left by apartheid, by implementing the affirmative action, the department is aware that black South Africans are still being discriminated in the private sector. He said government is finding it difficult to take any action against those companies because it is difficult to prove that such is being practiced. He said in most cases, such employers also invite black candidates for interviews, while they have already appointed someone into that post, and then reject them on basis of either not having the required experience or skills.
Asked whether it was lawful to give a job to someone who does not have a legal qualification, the officer said such is classified as fraud, and whoever is found to be doing such should be arrested. He however explained that it is the sole responsibility of every employer to verify qualifications for potential candidates. He says if an employer chooses not to do his homework, it was not government’s problem.
Another investigation conducted by the author of this article revealed that some white business owners prefer giving jobs to foreigners because they believe the curriculum adopted in higher institutions of learning in their countries of origin is responsive to the needs of the labor market.
Tom Davidson, who was forced to leave his job at the SABC said despite that he is still angry with the way the democratically elected government removed whites from senior posts, he has no qualms with hiring a black employee. Sz11“A Zimbabwean who studied up to Grade twelve is much better than a South African, who studied in the University of Witwatersrand. Whether. a Zimbabwean used a forged certificate or not, what matters is that she can do the job. I pay people for working, not for certificates,” said the Chief Sub Editor in a daily newspaper.
On the other side, their black counterparts blamed the education system for not equipping young South Africans with the skills that are necessary in the real world. In their view, tertiary education focuses on theory rather than giving students practical skills. They also fingered racial differences as another factor, saying it was still difficult for some whites to accept blacks as equals.
“It’s a pity that millions of our young people aren’t getting that first job, even after getting a qualification. It then becomes even more difficult as they grow older to give them entry positions because they would have outgrown the junior positions. It is really a sad and difficult situation because you parents will sleep hungry in order for you to be able to get an education, only to found that you can’t get the job after completing your studies,” said a news editor who spoke on anonymity.
Asked whether black South Africans were being discriminated in the private sector, he said, “the color of your skin will always matter in this country. I am a news editor but someone who is far junior than me is getting paid three times my salary because he/she is white.”
The civil society and politicians are blaming government for failing to create jobs. In a newsletter released last month, Hellen Zille, of the Democratic Alliance blasted the ANC for failing to boost investor confidence. “If we are to become globally competitive, we have to rethink the policies that govern our over-regulated labor environment. Because what we are doing at the moment is destroying jobs, deterring investors and keeping the unemployed trapped in poverty. “
She warned that “If the 3.1 million unemployed young South Africans (under the age of 34) are not given a chance to work and develop their skills in the near future, they will end up unemployable for life – a burden to themselves, their families and the state. Most of them will remain permanently trapped in poverty.”
An economist, Benjamin Denga said South Africa needed to act fast to save a looming possible massive job loss in the retail industry as most companies are still battling with debts repayment accumulated during the economic recession.
Oupa Mongadi, an analyst from the Daily Sun said government needed to revise her strategy and blamed corruption for the sky high unemployment. Richard Grant, a Professor of Finance & Economics in the University of Lipscomb said any efforts of cutting down unemployment in South Africa needed to prioritize limiting government spending, while reducing government ownership and control of property and businesses.
Meanwhile, government stands by her promise of creating over 500 000 job opportunities by the end of the year, with another four million jobs by 2014. Public Works Minister Geoff Doidge told a parliament committee that while it is possible to create 500 000 jobs by December, government would have to work hard. Sapa quoted him saying “there was an “ongoing intervention” by the government to create jobs. But at the moment, but “the need is greater than what we can provide opportunities for”.
However, Zuma has turned around to say it will take a little longer to turnaround the country’s economy. “It always takes some time, even years after growth starts, for jobs to be created in significant numbers,” said the president at a conference for the Confederation of Black Business Organizations