Unemployment worsens as politicians promise jobs if you vote for them

Here's a look at who is pledging what to whom on the work front

16 May 2024 - 06:30
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Alexandra in Johannesburg. Unemployment is in the spotlight as politicians go big on their job-creation promises. File photo.
Alexandra in Johannesburg. Unemployment is in the spotlight as politicians go big on their job-creation promises. File photo.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

Election season in South Africa is often characterised by grand promises from political parties vying for the votes of millions.

As unemployment grew from 32.1% to 32.9% in the first quarter of 2024, some have questioned whether promises of job creation and unemployment reduction by politicians are empty promises or substantial commitments that will translate into real change.

Here's a look into promises of job creation made during elections:

The ANC, which has been in power since the end of apartheid, has had a mixed track record. While they have made significant strides, their promises of widespread job creation have fallen short.

The ANC's promises

In their 2019 manifesto, the ANC promised to create about 275,000 jobs annually for five years. President Cyril Ramaphosa presented a 58-page document at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, saying the government would work with business, labour and communities to realise the goal of creating 275,000 jobs annually.

“At the centre of our manifesto is really a plan to create many more jobs and ensure that all workers can earn a decent living,” he said.

This year, Ramaphosa promised to create 2.5-million job opportunities in five years.

Despite these pledges, the first-quarter unemployment rate in 2024 is 32.9%, up from 29.1% in 2019. The number of unemployed people increased by 330,000 to 8.2-million while the number of employed people rose by only 22,000 to 16.7-million, according to Stats SA.

The DA's approach

DA leader John Steenhuisen believes unemployment was worsened by load-shedding and to tackle the problem the government would need to solve power blackouts. He promised at the party's manifesto launch in February to create 2-million new jobs.

The DA argues for loosening the labour market, upskilling the workforce and making it easier for businesses to invest in the economy.

“In the Western Cape in the last year alone 300,000 new jobs were created.  That’s 300,000 families that are able to exist off the welfare and off social grants. Jobs are going to be at the heart of this election,” he said, punting the DA as the party that would be able to deliver more of the same.

According to the latest Stats SA report, Western Cape had 21.4% unemployment in the first quarter. The expanded unemployment rate was 26.1%. The province had the lowest unemployment rate when compared to other provinces. The province, however, also recorded the greatest employment decrease recorded in the first quarter of the year, amounting to 17,000, followed by North West with 13,000 and Mpumalanga with 8,000.

Stats SA report.
Stats SA report.
Image: Stats SA

EFF's vows

The EFF has promised to create millions of jobs between 2024 and 2029 should it rule after May 29.

The party plans to do this through creating state-owned companies.

“The EFF will establish state-owned housing and roads companies that will deal with the social housing and roads infrastructure backlog. This will result in nearly 4-million jobs.

“A state-owned security company that will insource all security personnel working in government facilities. This will immediately create 1.2-million sustainable and quality jobs without departing from the existing government budget expenditure.

“The EFF will establish a state-owned cleaning, horticulture and landscaping company that will provide these services to state and public facilities and will lead to over 1-million,” the manifesto reads.

Party leader Julius Malema, speaking at the EFF's manifesto launch, said: “We are going to create jobs and we don’t make an apology when we say we are going to create jobs for all South Africans irrespective of their qualifications, irrespective of their age, irrespective of their background.”

Bosa's goal

Build One South Africa (Bosa) plans to provide at least one job in every home.

Party leader Mmusi Maimane said: “We were the first to come out and say what is feasible is actually doing about 2-million jobs in the next five years and of course that is still not enough to achieve the dream of full employment.

“We have to ensure that at least in every household there is a person working because it is not just about the job. It’s about dignity. It’s about income into the house.”

IFP's plan

The IFP presented a “13-point plan” to address unemployment. The party wants graduates to be given R3,000 to help them find meaningful employment.

In an interview with Newzroom Afrika, IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa said: “I have a daughter who is a graduate and is unemployed sitting at home. I know the frustration.”

He said almost every family had at least one unemployed young person.

South Africa’s unemployment remains high, despite promises of employment.
The gap between promises and delivery has a profound affect on public trust, leading to voter apathy and disengagement, as reflected in declining voter turnout and growing disillusionment with the political process.

Election promises are a critical component of democratic engagement, offering a vision of what political parties aim to achieve. While some promises remain unfulfilled due to various challenges, others have led to tangible improvements in people’s lives.

As South Africa continues to navigate its complex socioeconomic landscape, the fulfilment of electoral promises will remain a crucial measure of political integrity and effectiveness.


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