The National Assembly recently held a debate on “The role of national government policy in job creation and poverty alleviation”, which was proposed by Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament, Dr Michael Cardo.

Dr Cardo, who serves in the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour, believes that the state has a responsibility to improve the quality of life of all citizens and to free the potential of each person. And where people are unable to support themselves and their dependents, he says, the state must put in place legislative measures to ensure citizens are able to access social security, along with other socio-economic rights.

“Government policy should be geared towards creating and expanding opportunities. It is the government’s responsibility to provide an enabling environment for job creating for economic growth. The government itself cannot create jobs at scale – that’s the private sector’s role – but for this to happen, certain building blocks need to be in place. The government must see to it that there is a stable fiscal framework, infrastructure, safety and security, and an education system that produces a skilled labour force to propel the economy forward,” Dr Cardo said.

Mr Mncedisi Nontsele of the African National Congress accused the DA of speaking from a point of privilege, saying that its members are beneficiaries of the apartheid system. “The ANC government has taken a variety of measures aimed at reforming the apartheid labour market to boosting economic growth,” he said. Mr Nontsele also serves in the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour.

“The new labour laws were modelled on the International Labour Organisation standards for labour and decent work agenda,” Mr Nontsele pointed out. He told his colleagues in the National Assembly that the Employment Equity Act plays an essential role in rectifying historical imbalances. “It is a sign of government’s commitment to addressing historical inequalities in the workplace, the affirmative action policy liberated not only Africans but also a majority of white women who were previously considered as second-class citizens,” Mr Nontsele said. However, despite the government’s achievements in transforming the workplace, women in senior positions were still underrepresented, notably in the private sector, he maintained.

The Economic Freedom Fighters’ Mr Mzwanele Manyi said the extent of unemployment in South Africa is excessively high and threatens the country’s stability. He further said it is the primary responsibility of the state to prevent the approaching social and economic “Armageddon” and position the country on a sustainable development path. “Poverty is a symptom of a deeply unequal economic structure and to address this we need policies targeting the root causes, including progressive taxation and the nationalisation of key industries to prevent wealth concentration among the privileged few,” he said.

“Large-scale industrialisation is pivotal and central to generating employment on a massive scale. A comprehensive job creation programme focusing on infrastructure development, sustainable agriculture and an expanded public works programme is the way to go, laying the foundation for sustained long term economic growth,” Mr Manyi continued. He also suggested that the education system needs to be revamped to focus on technical skills to align the dynamic needs for the job market. 

Mr Siphosethu Ngcobo of the Inkatha Freedom Party said: “For years the IFP has been a passionate advocate for sustainable and long-term job creation as a vital step towards restoring dignity to all South Africans. Central to achieving this vision is the imperative role of government policies, meticulously crafted not only to secure income for the impoverished but also to economically empower them.

Freedom Front Plus Member of Parliament Ms Heloise Denner blamed the high unemployment rate on government policies such as employment equity and black economic empowerment (BEE). “A merit-based appointment system means that the best person for the job, regardless of race, should be appointed. In that way, appointment processes will be fair, and the best possible work will be delivered, which in turn will contribute to economic growth and create more jobs.

“Policies such as BEE is too often used to defraud the state, enabling cadre deployment and nepotism. Instead of levelling the playing field, it merely stacks the odds against the millions of unemployed, impoverished South Africans,” she said. Ms Denner further argued that government’s education policy severely impacts on job creation, as there is a substantial gap between the skills produced by the education system and the skills required by the job market.

Sakhile Mokoena

27 November 2023