The public sector cannot be the primary jobs driver
The Times: The plight of the unemployed is not usually top of mind for labour leaders so when a union as important as the National Union of Metalworkers of SA has something to say on the subject you have to take notice.
Yesterday, Numsa announced that one of the outcomes of its recent national policy workshop was the proposal that unemployed graduates should be re-trained and employed in the public service, where there is a 35% vacancy rate.
The proposal, which was first apparently floated by the Young Communist League, would cost about R4-billion, the union said, adding that the vast sums the government had invested, since 1994, in skills training and development had failed to dent unemployment, particularly among the youth.
Numsa is right to be concerned about the country's shockingly high unemployment rate.
According to official figures, the number of unemployed young people aged between 15 and 24 rose by 126000, or 9.9%, in the first quarter of this year to 1.393-million. This, clearly, is a recipe for instability.
Employing unemployed graduates in the public sector will create some jobs but, on its own, will not significantly reduce youth unemployment.
Nor will it solve the problems in the civil service, which desperately needs skilled managers, not young graduates.
Trade union Uasa's recently published 2012 Employment Report showed that the government employs more than a fifth (22.8%) of formal-sector workers in the country - and that it overpays its workers to boot.
Most economists agree that the private sector, and not the government, should be the primary jobs driver, and that to this end, concerted efforts should be made to promote the establishment of small businesses.
Surely the contested youth wage subsidy - announced two years ago, but stalled because of opposition from the unions - is the most effective way of addressing the problem?