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A job opportunity for every South African’ – the promise of a new party formed by unemployed people


Ayal Belling is a founder of the unemployed movement Organising for Work. He previously worked in finance and technology in London and Cape Town. He is now an organiser for Progress, a new party registered with the IEC, which wants a massive expansion of proven socially and economically productive public employment to guarantee every unemployed South African a work opportunity.

Organising for Work, an unemployed people’s movement, has launched Progress, a party for jobs, to contest the 2024 national and provincial elections. Organising for Work has, since 2018, helped hundreds of people find jobs through its branches in high-unemployment areas of Cape Town that are run by and for unemployed people.

In his last podcast before he died on 30 May, aged just 45, the brilliant political analyst Eusebius McKaiser implored South Africa’s new political parties to give voters, in clear understandable terms, their plan to fix our country’s biggest problems.

Here is ours.

Six in 10 people in the country of working age (15 to 64) do not have a job.

Having a job means your children will be more likely to do well at school. It means that you will have more backup options when the power goes off. It means you will eat better and live healthier. It means you will not have to resort to criminal economic activity.

These are some of the reasons we founded Organising for Work (OfW) in 2018.

OfW operates through community organising, training unemployed volunteers to staff branches that improve people’s chances of finding work. Having utilised fast experimentation, learning and iteration, we landed on a clear and transparent member-tiering system open to all. The tiers determine not only branch seniority and opportunities, but rising up through them also improves people’s chances of finding work.

Now, people from OfW have founded Progress, a party for jobs. We have done this because there is no other political party (new or old) that is promising an employment programme big enough to make a dent in our unemployment crisis.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Using Barack Obama’s organising model to tackle SA’s unemployment crisis 

Progress will continue OfW’s work of improving people’s chances today of finding work. And, for the 2024 elections, Progress is pledging to end unemployment in the country in three years.

Progress Party’s plan

A Progress government would guarantee a half-time job opportunity (2½ days a week) for every South African, that pays R2,200 a month – the first of our two core promises. These jobs would be directed primarily at solving the electricity crisis, fixing educational and healthcare infrastructure, building telecoms infrastructure for free and cheaper internet and repairing and building roads and rail.

The beauty of such productive work is that it returns far more (financially and socially) than is invested.

With this abundance of labour, we could make major inroads into addressing the country’s many problems. 

Here are three examples.

End load shedding by the end of 2025

We will add five terawatts of power in our first year alone through the installation of one million home solar water heaters, 1,000 geographically dispersed solar mini-grids and 1,000 wind turbines.

These are in addition to the existing home and business solar incentives and the current pipeline of renewable energy projects expected to come online in the next two years.

Give children a better chance at getting to matric

We will eliminate all school pit latrines in our first six months in office and majorly accelerate infrastructure upgrades at SA’s 25,000 public schools. We will also build and improve the infrastructure and staffing of thousands of early childhood development centres and other early learning programmes so that many more of our children can thrive by five.

While not a substitute for better teacher training and school administration, learning outcomes would probably improve with so many more parents and family members earning predictably. Children’s stomachs will be fuller and their lives less stressful.

Create more than a million new entrepreneurs

The massive increase in the number of people earning a monthly salary would provide a broader base for the South African economy. This increased economic activity would support new entrepreneurs in all parts of the country.

Progress’s second core promise is to offer every South African an opportunity to start their own business. Those who prefer to be an entrepreneur rather than take a job would be funded with R2,200 a month – paid in cash, stock and equipment.

Each person taking this route would spend the first three months training to be a micro-entrepreneur. Once completed, they would be required to be active members of the trade organisation related to the type of work they do. This will enhance shared learnings, improve the quality of their products and services, facilitate joint buying and selling and generally increase the entrepreneur’s networks.

Excellent, at-scale examples of this in action are the South African nonprofit Taking Care of Business (formerly The Clothing Bank), and India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association.

While two-thirds of our survey respondents say they would take our entrepreneurship option over a job, we know that it’s extremely hard to make a living with a new business. The failure rate will be high. Those who drop out would still be able to take one of the guaranteed job opportunities.

How can we afford these programmes?

From day one, we would expect to cover around 30% of the cost through reprioritisation of the Budget, by getting far better bang for our buck on existing allocations, and from a tax increase at the higher income levels and a higher VAT rate on luxury goods.

However, until the end of year four, by which time the economy will be in a far healthier state, a fiscal stimulus, averaging 3% of GDP per year – modest by recent international standards – will be required.

So long as the stimulus is used well on the types of programmes above, it would deliver returns to GDP that are up to four times the amount spent. And, despite increasing public borrowing in the short term, this strategy is the best way to decrease SA’s debt-to-GDP ratio in the medium term (GDP will rise faster than borrowing).

Of course, public employment cannot be a permanent solution to unemployment in the country. With a better-run state, sufficient and well-functioning infrastructure and far better services provided at the local level including better-quality public schools, the private sector will gradually absorb more and more of the workforce.

Register to vote and prepare for 2024

We gathered signatures for our party registration through five branch relaunches around Cape Town. Virtually without exception, every one of the 1,500 people in attendance signed in support of our party formation.

Through our online platform and in our branches, you can help people register to vote online, let people know about Progress and be part of a get-out-the-vote team on election day.

We are all ready for a breath of fresh air, for a positive and believable change of direction. Help us to continue to deliver the services our branches have delivered since 2018 – improving people’s chances today of finding work.

Join us! DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Nic Tsangarakis says:

    Wish you well Ayal and Progress.

  • Peter Doble says:

    Well you can’t argue with the theory – but in practice, while the deadlines look vote catching, the list of obstacles is enormous. There’s no doubt that some positive steps are needed to stop the state captured juggernaut from disintegrating on the rocks of failure. If only there was the natural tenacity of the Ukrainians, the desire to succeed of the Asians and the ability to work tirelessly to make the best of a limited situation which the Indians find – then I might become converted.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Good news. Strength to you all. Wishing you every success.

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