Cape Town - Economic Development
Minister Ebrahim Patel on Thursday ruled out imposing a youth wage
subsidy without social consensus.
"We need to forge a consensus on
how to address youth unemployment, instead of a 'kragdadige'
(forceful) approach to push through a single measure in the face of
opposition from youth organisations and trade unions," Patel
said in a debate on the measure in Parliament.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan
budgeted R5bn to start implementing the subsidy from April.
But it was put on ice amid protest from
Cosatu, and of late the ANC Youth League and the National Youth
Patel's pronouncement was eagerly
awaited after Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe on Wednesday
responded to questions from MPs on the subsidy by referring to the
upcoming debate with the words: "Tomorrow is D-Day."
Patel said the Nedlac debate on the
issue had been widened to include more concerned parties and they had
agreed on the need for a "social compact" on how to get
young people into jobs.
"No single mechanism can address
the challenge of youth unemployment," he said.
"We are looking to short- and
long-term measures and a package that is proportionate to the scale
of the problem."
Patel suggested private and public
sector initiatives could be added to existing policies like the
expanded public works and the community work programmes.
"We have tabled a proposal for a
youth employment committee under Nedlac to consider specific measures
to boost employment for young workers," he said.
"By building a collaboration it
will avoid unnecessary conflict and exploitative programmes. In
addition where young people want to start their own businesses,
government will help them."
Patel suggested government would
provide support for youth entry into certain sectors of the economy,
such as infrastructure and the green economy, but did not provide
Democratic Alliance MP Tim Harris said
Patel's speech seemed like the death knell for Gordhan's initiative
and was a humiliating defeat for the Treasury chief.
"What an indignity for the
National Treasury that Minister Patel is sent out today to set a nail
in the coffin of the youth wage subsidy."
Cosatu had expressed fear that the
policy would prompt business to replace experienced workers with
young, "cheap" labour.
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