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Oliphant: UIF helping thousands

May 08 2012 15:59 Sapa

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Parliament - Altogether 705 856 workers accessed the unemployment safety net - the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) - in the year to March, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Tuesday.

The UIF paid more than R5.6bn in benefits to these workers, she told the National Assembly during debate on her budget vote.

"This is over and above other efforts the fund has contributed to, to assist the unemployed with training and job creation."

Oliphant said the UIF had become an example of excellence in relation to service delivery.

Unemployment insurance, as a social security mechanism, was an important pillar of government's anti-poverty strategy aimed at ensuring a "better life," and was a key component of the decent work agenda.

On the technology front, the UIF had embarked on a new initiative called the virtual office, which would allow those employees who had access to the internet, to apply for UIF benefits online.

The new system electronically connected the unemployed with their former employers and provided for real-time declaration of earnings and employment histories, speedy claim processing, and tracking of all claims through unique reference numbers.

This soon-to-be-launched service would save time and costs and would be transparent and secure.

The new virtual office would also enhance the performance of the labour centres, many of which were achieving their targets for the turnaround time of claims.

During the period under review, the UIF together with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) enhanced their strategic relationship and interaction.

In addition to the R2bn five year private placement bond that was issued by the IDC, and in turn subscribed by the UIF in April 2010, the UIF approved in principle four additional bonds of R500 million each to be registered by the IDC and taken up by the UIF.

The first R500m bond was approved in August 2011 and the second and third bonds were approved in December 2011 -- a total amount of R1.5bn in socially responsible investments.

These funds were available to start-up businesses and also supported the expansion of existing businesses.

Based on approved business plans, the first two bonds had supported the creation 15,056 jobs and saved a further 18,637 jobs, she said.

Up-skilling the unemployed and the UIF beneficiaries through training was needed to improve their chances of re-employment.

The training and social plan funding was executed in close relationship with the National Skills Fund (NSF), the various sector education and training authorities (SETAs), and Productivity South Africa.

The fund budgeted an amount of R210m for 2011/12 of which R19.46m had been spent as at end December 2011.

R660m had been budgeted for various training and re-integration schemes over the 2012/13 to 2014/15 medium-term expenditure period.

With reference to the training lay-off scheme, the fund signed funding agreements to the value of R31.11m from the scheme's inception up to December 31, 2011, and had paid R9.55m in training allowances to participating employers and employees.

Through the scheme, the fund had assisted 18 companies and 4 330 workers.

"Up to the end of December 2011, our employment services managed to register 403 482 job seekers," she said.

Not surprisingly, the majority of job seekers came to labour centres in Gauteng (135 651), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (76 261), and the Western Cape (71 571).

The service assessed and profiled 139 428 jobseekers and a further 64 798 were referred to employers or placed in vacancies reported to the department.

"It is a pleasure also to report that the sheltered employment factories that fall under the department and that employ more than 1000 persons with disabilities, increased their sales by five percent between 2010/11 and 2011/12," Oliphant said.

mildred oliphant  |  unemployment  |  uif
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