South Africa, Politics

Youth employment: What the parties’ manifestos offer

By Greg Nicolson 16 June 2016

As the country marked Youth Day on Thursday, an Ipsos poll of 3,786 young people has unsurprisingly found that unemployment is the most important issue young people want government to address. GREG NICOLSON takes a look at the election manifestos to see how different parties hope to use municipalities to create jobs.

Ipsos, which randomly chose youth between the ages of 15 and 24 for face-to-face interviews from the end of March to beginning of May, said “unemployment/job creation/too few jobs” was the most important issue that young people want government to address. Broken down into the voting age respondents, between 18 and 24, 49% said it’s the most important issue for government to address, while 86% noted it as one of the key areas for government in a list of prioritites. The next most important issues, crime and education, lagged far behind.

The results are expected, with youth making up the majority of the unemployed. The ongoing unemployment challenge is complex, but municipalities are key drivers of growth and ahead of local government elections political parties have been explaining how they would use the local sphere to boost jobs.

Our municipalities, guided by the National Development Plan, will place job creation and sustainable livelihoods at the centre of their local economic programmes,” President Jacob Zuma said the at African National Congress’s election manifesto launch in April.

The ANC’s manifesto focuses largely on the party’s history of increasing delivery of basic services. On employment it boasts that the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), which provides short-to-medium-term employment, delivered 1.24-million work opportunities by March 2015, surpassing its scheduled target, with youth making up 50% of participants. Municipalities with Community Works Programmes (CPWs) increased from 45 in 2011 to 196 in 2015 with participants doubling to 200,000.

The ANC’s manifesto talks mostly in broad terms and the party has committed to expanding CPWs to expose youth to work opportunities and ensuring the EPWP takes advantage of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant to create labour-absorbing activities. The ANC also says it will encourage municipalities to directly employ workers rather than outsourcing them.

To boost local economies and create jobs, the ANC wants to reorientate local economies to become centres of production, upscale co-operatives, develop youth entrepreneurial programmes, promote local procurement, develop productive and create youth skills, ensure small business growth through centralised government procurement, and encourage businesses to take advantage of programmes that promote youth employment.

Except on the EPWP, the ANC’s manifesto speaks only of creating jobs broadly, without going into specifics on the programmes its municipalities across the country are implementing.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) manifesto makes much of boosting employment,with creating the right conditions for business investment and growth at the heart of its pitch. In line with its “where the DA governs” slogan it uses a number of examples to that claim the party can boost unemployment, particularly with Cape Town having the country’s lowest unemployment rate.

The DA proposes to simplify regulations and red tape to make it easier to start and develop a business, create one-stop-shops for information on investment opportunities, offer incentives for new businesses, identify areas of comparative advantage with private actors, use available facilities for public-private partnerships, and lease underutilised public buildings at below market rates for initiatives promising employment.

Like the ANC, it also looks to using the EPWP to create jobs, but with some tweaks. Public representatives would be excluded from the EPWP recruitment and appointment process to avoid favouritism. The party wants to create databases of EPWP participants, which would be open to the public sector to help with finding further employment, and, as in the City of Cape Town, the DA would probably implement policies to ensure the same EPWP participants aren’t repeatedly given jobs.

Of the big three parties, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) suggests the most fundamental changes to boost employment through municipalities and distances itself from initiatives like the EPWP.

The EFF local government elections manifesto is different from the rest because its success will primarily be gauged by the number of jobs the municipality will create, and the number of lives that would have been improved,” it boldly states.

The party proposes municipalities play a greater role in local development and industrialisation, including expanding municipal-owned entities in housing, roads, fresh produce, meat, printing, theatres and recording studios. It’s about municipal-led industrialisation, local production and consumption.

The EFF wants to create industrial parks focusing on production for the local market, not what it says are the export-focused special economic zones of the ANC, and wants to enforce consumption of locally-made products. It says 50% of what is consumed in a municipality must be made within that municipality and 40% of business investments should be controlled by community trusts. An EFF municipality plans to phase out tenders and increase employment through internal service delivery. Where goods and services would need to be procured by municipalities, 70% would be local.

Doubts have been raised about the viability of implementing such structural changes, but EFF leader Julius Malema has explained, “Because the EFF is a mass-based movement, we will use both municipal power and the power of the people to ensure that localisation happens.”

The smaller parties have also tried to tackle the issue. The Congress of the People’s (COPE’s) manifesto emphasises grassroots governance and says it would “strive to stimulate job creation in every ward through joint local planning and the creation of ward co-operatives which will work with the Municipal Development and Trading Company”.

The United Democratic Front says councils must create employment initiatives and reduce obstacles for entrepreneurs.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) keeps it simple: “Trust us to make job creation the number one priority of all IFP municipalities.” DM

Photo: DA’s Mmusi Maimane (Greg Nicolson), ANC’s Jacob Zuma (EPA) and EFF’s Julius Malema (Greg Nicolson)

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