DA Free State will declare war on unemployment

Roy Jankielsohn MPL

DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature

The latest labour market trends released on Tuesday by the Institute of Race Relations paints a dismal picture of the Free State’s economy. Currently unemployment in the Free State is at 34% which is an increase of 10,5% from the 2003 statistics of 23,5%. The expanded definition of unemployment shows an increase from 36,2% in 2003 to 41,2% in 2013.

According to the strict definition of unemployment only those people who take active steps to find employment, but fail to do so, are regarded as unemployed. The expanded definition, on the other hand, includes everyone who desire employment, irrespective of whether or not they actively tried to obtain a job. Youth unemployment (strict definition) in the Free State increased significantly from 36,6% in 2003 to 46,7% in 2013.

The industries in the province that shed the most jobs over a ten year period were Agriculture 39 000, Trade 2 600 and Mining 59 000.  These statistics indicate that unemployment in the Free State is the highest in the country. Education plays a major role in determining an individual’s eligibility for employment. In this respect a dismal 42,9% of people in the Free State have a matric plus, while 56,9% have less that matric, and 0,2% have other qualifications.

It is clear that the ANC-governed Free State has shown a significant economic decline over the last decade with increased decay since Premier Ace Magashule took the helm of the province. Currently 48% of our people live on R800 or less per month and 964 000 people out of a population of 2 745 590 are dependent on social grants.

This situation can only change with a government that understands that it is time for our province to go back to the basics. A holistic approach to an opportunity based economy should include quality basic education and skills development, investment in infrastructure, and the creation of an enabling regulatory environment for investment at both municipal and provincial levels. Aspects relating to the health of the population, improved basic services, safety and security, and a principled approach to the environment are also crucial elements of such a strategy.

The DA has a comprehensive economic plan for the Free State and South Africa. The DA’s economic policy for 8% Growth and Jobs form the foundation of a range of initiatives that will drive employment and prosperity. Where the DA governs in the Western Cape and Midvaal we have implemented the ‘Red Tape to Red Carpet’ programme that makes it easier and cheaper for small businesses to formalise, supplementary programmes seek to develop administrative, managerial and financial skills of informal traders.

To tackle youth unemployment the DA has been fighting for more than 3 years to have a Youth Wage Subsidy implemented. Our efforts to economically empower the youth through this subsidy has been opposed by COSATU, the SACP and, as a result, caused a paralysis within the ANC government. If the Youth Wage Subsidy was implemented 3 years ago it would have benefitted more than 420 000 first time job seekers. In the Western Cape the DA has successfully implemented a youth wage subsidy, known as the ‘Work and Skills for 100 000 Programme’, this initiative has to date empowered and employed almost 3000 youths.

The Free State has an abundance of resources, a willing population, and is centrally situated. These aspects should be the centre of any strategies for growth in economic opportunities and job creation. The people of the province can only change their future and that of their children by the political choices that they make at the ballot box. Together we can overcome our greatest enemy in the province, unemployment.