The grim reality of a national unemployment rate of 35.3% and that over 7.6 million South Africans are looking for work, should be the driving force prompting government to take urgent action to create job opportunities. We can no longer sit and listen to presentations from the Department on means and measures to stimulate employment opportunities and investment, while we see very little of it in practice. Our people are starving of hunger and have been abandoned by a government that continues to fail to deliver on its constitutional mandate. We therefore need to scrutinise the Department’s performance and actively question whether it is fulfilling its mandate.
The Department recently published a draft National Labour Migration Policy and Employment Services Amendment Bill, amending the employment of foreign nationals, for public comment. It becomes patently clear, on consideration of the Labour Migration Policy – which is described as a policy framework that will guide labour migration impacting on South Africa – how little effort has been made since the dawn of democracy to address the reality of labour migration. It is only now that the government has decided to actively investigate this aspect and to ensure a coordinated government response, to inform policy and prospective legislation.
The reality is that there is a strong, growing sentiment that foreign nationals are being employed over and above South Africans in jobs that do not demand critical or scarce skills. The IFP has heard the cries of our young people. We have listened to our youth who, despite a matric, cannot find any work and do not have access to decent work. The IFP, in the past two years, has taken the lead and prepared a Private Members’ Bill, proposing to amend the Employment Services Act, to regulate the recruitment of foreign nationals in certain economic sectors and to strengthen the current regulatory framework regarding the recruitment of such nationals. The IFP, however, strongly opposes xenophobia and we do not propose, as the government does, the introduction of quotas – which we believe is not only unconstitutional but also dangerous, as it might ignite further xenophobia. We believe in the introduction of flexible, informed, numerical targets, which must be adhered to by employers in certain sectors, to ensure that South Africans are prioritised. Above all, it is critical that proper consultation is done with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the introduction of such numerical targets is rationally justified and backed by evidence.
On further consideration of the Department’s latest Annual Performance Plan and Budget, the IFP strongly endorses the Portfolio Committee’s recommendation that plans to review the organisational structure of the Unemployment Insurance Fund must urgently be attended to, in order to improve its efficiency. The backlog at the Fund and the slow progress in accessing claims has been shocking, and the Fund has been plagued by irregular and wasteful expenditure, as pointed out by the Auditor-General. The IFP will carefully monitor progress reports on the organisational restructuring of the Fund, which serves a critical purpose.
The IFP accepts the Budget Vote.