SA needs to step out of the box to tackle unemployment crisis

Zakes Mda’s novel, Ways of dying, options the character Toloki, who, unable to search out standard employment, invents the fairly macabre occupation of mourning at strangers’ funerals.

While this doesn’t make him rich, it supplies him with an revenue stream that, though meagre, was beforehand unavailable to him.

A key lesson for South Africa from Toloki’s inventiveness is that considering out of the field ought to be the default mode when the everyday means of tackling challenges doesn’t bear the specified end result. An excellent instance of the place this may be utilized is the nation’s stubbornly excessive unemployment charge, which maintained its ascent within the fourth quarter of 2021, climbing to 35,3% from 34.9% within the previous quarter.

If people who have despaired of ever discovering employment and are now not on the job market are included within the tally, the share rises to 46.2%.

As commerce federation Cosatu has warned, the share of working-age South Africans who’re out of employment, together with those that have stopped wanting, will hit 50% quickly except the federal government introduces simpler interventions.

Said in another way, Cosatu is looking for a Toloki-like mentality to tame the unemployment scourge, which has been proven to be a significant driver of crime and different social ills.

Unlike Toloki, the federal government doesn’t essentially must invent new professions to soak up the huge military of the unemployed.

However, a change of tack is required, and start line could be fostering entrepreneurship in order that residents are capable of create employment for themselves and others as a substitute of searching for that elusive job within the formal sector.

As the World Bank identified in a 2021 report, self-employment represents a paltry 10% of all jobs on this nation, in contrast with 30% in international locations resembling Turkey, Mexico, and Brazil, which, like South Africa, are upper-middle-income economies.

According to the World Bank’s calculations, our unemployment burden might doubtlessly be halved if we elevate our self-employment charge to the identical degree as our upper-middle-income friends.

Granted, South Africa has a beautiful entrepreneurship-focused coverage within the National Informal Business Upliftment Strategy, which was launched by the Department of Small Business Development in 2014. The main downside, nevertheless, has been an absence of sturdy implementation of the technique.

The World Bank’s prescription for fostering self-employment, to which the South African authorities ought to pay heed, contains easing licensing necessities for casual companies and eliminating land-use zoning laws that place undue restrictions on enterprise operations in townships and different city settings the place workplaces, public areas, and dwellings typically overlap.

Furthermore, linking casual companies to state procurement at nationwide, provincial, and municipal ranges would do these companies a world of fine.

This is the place a Toloki-like mentality is required.

The full-throttle promotion of self-employment doesn’t, nevertheless, suggest that focus ought to be taken away from formal employment.

Take the agricultural sector, for instance.

Although it recorded a internet acquire of 38 000 jobs within the fourth quarter of 2021, its skilled-worker complement declined by 20.6% yr on yr.

AgriSA has mentioned the pedestrian development within the sector is partially attributable to the poor state of South Africa’s roads, rail community, and ports.

Fixing these will certainly go a great distance in the direction of inserting the agricultural sector on a steeper development trajectory, which is able to result in a quicker charge of job creation.

State-owned energy utility Eskom can also be a contributor to the woes of South African companies, which grievance about excessive electrical energy tariffs and frequent bouts of load-shedding, which play havoc with enterprise operations.

Of course, the advantages of interventions resembling fixing Eskom and our ports, highway, and rail networks are unlikely to manifest within the quick time period.

However, creating an atmosphere the place small companies can flourish mustn’t take loads of time. The authorities ought to go for it.

  • Morena is CEO of the Southern African Institute of Government Auditors

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