Johannesburg – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says government and its social partners will only be able to say: “the work is done” when South Africa has a growing, inclusive economy that creates decent jobs.
Addressing the 21st National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) Annual Summit in Johannesburg on Friday, the Deputy President said the work will only be done when young South Africans are in productive employment, when people can support themselves and when all poor students can access quality education.
“We can only say our work is done when we produce more women engineers, doctors and accountants; when we derive more value from our minerals; when we process our crops where they are grown.
“We can only say our work is done when all South Africans have electricity in their homes; when they all have reliable, safe water and decent sanitation,” he said.
The Deputy President said there is a need to work together to transform the economic landscape for the benefit of all.
NEDLAC must continue to be the country’s most effective mechanism to facilitate consensus among the social partners in finding appropriate solutions.
The rapid economic growth that is needed must be sustainable and equitable. It must be founded on participation, social dialogue and courageous leadership.
He quoted the National Development Plan (NDP), which sets a target of 11 million additional jobs by 2030 and a rise in the labour force participation rate from 54% in 2010 to 65%.
“If we are to achieve these targets, we need to take extraordinary measures. We need to accelerate the implementation of those programmes that have shown the greatest promise. Most importantly, we need to develop new, refreshing, innovative approaches to creating work,” said the Deputy President.
Economic growth, job creation
From 1994 to 2015, South Africa’s economy experienced average annual growth of 3%.
“Last year, we achieved growth of only 1.3 percent. The news this week of growth of 3.3 percent in the last quarter should encourage us to deepen collaboration between all social partners in implementing an agenda for growth and development.
“We need to frankly discuss how we align our efforts to promote decent work with the extremely urgent task of getting unemployed people into jobs in significant numbers in the shortest possible time,” he said.
Progress in the revitalisation of agriculture and the agro processing value chain and in advancing beneficiation has been evident.
Operation Phakisa has begun to yield results through new investment in the oceans economy.
“Even in a constrained fiscal environment, we continue our massive investment in economic and social infrastructure. We are implementing new initiatives to support small business and expanding our public employment programmes,” he said.
Government is working with business and labour to implement specific immediate measures to boost employment.
“We expect announcements soon on planned interventions in key sectors of the economy, the stabilisation and reform of state-owned companies, youth employment programmes and private sector co-investment in infrastructure.
“Significant progress has also been made within NEDLAC on the measures to promote labour market stability and reduce income inequality, specifically through the introduction of a national minimum wage,” said the Deputy President.
All social partners are committed to ensuring that this important work is concluded without further delay, he said.
He commended the leadership provided by labour in helping to save jobs.
“We believe that our success in stabilising the economy and increasing production has been helped by the call from some in labour that in the course of wage negotiations we should seek a balance between pay rises and job security.
“They are correct in their assessment that excessive wage demands can have a negative impact on employment,” he said.
Business needs to respond by demonstrating its commitment to constrain excessive executive pay and preserve jobs even during periods of economic stress.
“We need a serious conversation about change. We are tasked with convening a Jobs Summit by the end of the year,” he said.
The Deputy President said everyone has a shared interest in raising employment and improving household income.
“Our public posture and our public statements should not puncture the hopes and thwart the dreams of millions of South Africans who live daily with grinding poverty, squalor and marginalisation.
“We must engage, not insult. We must attend to our differences and pursue our shared interests. And we must be prepared, each of us, to acknowledge our own shortcomings,” said the Deputy President.