NewsSouthern AfricaSouth African unions raise alarm over job losses


Posted on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 15:58

South African unions raise alarm over job losses

By Crystal Orderson in Cape Town

File Photo©ReutersSouth African trade unions have expressed shock at the country's unemployment levels following the release of statistics showing that the number of people without jobs in one of Africa's largest economies had risen by 2.2 percent.

According to latest data released by Statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate increased to 26.7 percent in the first quarter of this year from the 24.5 percent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2015. The Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said the latest figures pointed to a "looming catastrophe".

The massive job losses in the first quarter of 2016 would have a devastating impact on households

"These statistics are shocking and depressing. They confirm that we have a crisis of unemployment and it needs our urgent attention," Cosatu's Sizwe Pamla said. The federation had been calling for a jobs summit to discuss the ongoing retrenchments, Pamla said.

Statistics South Africa data showed that all sectors of the economy had been haemorrhaging jobs with the biggest job losses recorded in trade, where 119,000 workers lost their jobs.

The manufacturing sector shed 100,000 jobs while another 77,000 jobs were lost in the construction sector during the period under review.

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) said the statistics showed that the number of employed people in the formal sector decreased in the six main industries.

"The massive job losses in the first quarter of 2016 would have a devastating impact on households, SARS (South Africa Revenue Services) will have to forego millions in tax revenue through PAYE (pay-as-you-earn and VAT (value added tax) collections, and the bearing of social cohesion would be disturbing for the country," said Fedusa's Dennis George.

More than 355 000 jobs were lost in the first quarter of 2016, adding to the already 8.9 million unemployed people in the country.

36.3 percent unemployed

The expanded unemployment rate definition includes those who were available to work but did not look for work and this increased by 2.5 percent during the period under review. This put the real unemployment rate in South Africa at 36.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Cosatu says the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill should be made law as soon as possible to cushion workers that lose their jobs.

The federation says this would ensure that those without jobs would benefit from the unemployment insurance for over 12 months. "This should cater for without alternative work, as well as seasonal, contract and informal sector workers," said Pamla.

President Jacob Zuma on Monday met business and trade unions in Pretoria to discuss the state of the economy amid concerns that the government is not doing enough to stop the decline.

Zuma said that while the South African economy had recovered from the global financial crisis, the "level of economic growth has been much weaker than previously anticipated".

"Part of this is due to the challenging global economic environment," he was quoted saying. "At the same time, we recognise as government that there are also some domestic constraints that we must attend to."

Zuma said despite the current economic problems, government and business remained determined to find solutions to problems facing South Africa.

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