No forced public service retrenchments as government readies for Jobs Summit | Fin24

No forced public service retrenchments as government readies for Jobs Summit

Oct 04 2018 07:00
Ferial Haffajee

Government will use the Jobs Summit starting on Thursday to promise that there will be no forced retrenchments in the 1.3 million-strong public service, says Madoda Vilakazi, executive director of Nedlac, which is running the presidential jobs extravaganza.

Nedlac is the National Economic Development and Labour Council, and is a negotiating chamber for business, labour, government and the community sector. 

Previous reports had said that government was looking to cut state jobs as part of its effort to redirect public spending to infrastructure and other growth-enhancing policies. The Mail & Guardian first reported in early August that government was planning to cut 30 000 jobs in the public sector, and had set aside R4bn to start the slimdown.  

This will no longer happen, and is likely to be a key trade-off to labour, a powerful partner at the Jobs Summit, which starts on Thursday afternoon and ends at lunch on Friday. 

South Africa has 9.6 million unemployed people, out of a 37.8-million strong total adult population, according to an analysis by the Centre for Development and Enterprise published last weekend.

The centre found that 860 people join the unemployment line every day. Youth unemployment stands at six million young people, according to the business-sponsored Youth Employment Service (YES).  

"We have commitments around a number of interventions. There will be no forced retrenchments in the public sector, as there is a view that you can’t create new jobs while the state’s retrenching," Vilakazi told Fin24 ahead of the summit - one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature initiatives that he hopes will reignite growth and steer South Africa clear of a prolonged recession. 

Vilakazi said that with retrenchments accelerating across the economy, other job-saving commitments would be made at the summit, which ends with the symbolic signing of a big national jobs agreement. 

Regular monitoring

Asked how this summit would be different from others that have started with big-bang meetings only to fizzle into nothing, Vilakazi said this summit’s agreement would be monitored quarterly to ensure it was on track. 

He said that sectors with growth potential, like agro-processing, would make jobs commitments and, in turn, the government would agree to measures to clear roadblocks to both domestic and foreign investment.  

Ramaphosa has attended several meetings at Nedlac to get the jobs pact signed on Friday. By Tuesday, the draft agreement was almost completed, said Vilakazi, who added: "There are commitments from government to remove regulatory uncertainty in the system."

In months of job talks, businesses have raised red tape as big growth impediments. Vilakazi said the agro-processing industry had complained that it took years to get water licences approved. 

The tourism sector - widely recognised as having the highest employment potential - wanted changes to South Africa’s visa regime to make it easier for visitors to come to the country.   

The Department of Home Affairs has, in the past fortnight, eased unabridged birth certificate rules and is making it easier for visitors from targeted tourism markets to visit South Africa.

Under President Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s economic policies were state-spending led rather than growth-led. Asked what the philosophy of employment creation now is, Vilakazi said: "The parties believe that employment is a function of a growing economy.  There are many elements that contribute to economic growth. Infrastructure development is a catalyst for jobs and growth."

When he unveiled his stimulus package two weeks ago, Ramaphosa announced that the state would contribute R400bn over the medium term to an infrastructure fund, which would be overseen by a dedicated Infrastructure Execution Team.  

Asked what a best-case scenario was for the jobs summit, Vilakazi said, "To get the national jobs agreement signed and commitments made, and to ensure implementation will be spot-on."

And what about the worst-case scenario?  

"The worst case is that it becomes a talk-shop, but no one cares to implement afterwards."    

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