ANC thinks again on its 'decent work' drive

‘Nothing more (degrading) than being unemployed’ — Mantashe


THE African National Congress (ANC) yesterday appeared to be dropping its emphasis on "decent work" in favour of creating more jobs — in a step that signals a potentially radical change for SA’s labour-friendly environment.

The about-turn came as ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe released a breakdown of the jobs the ANC wants to see created under the government’s New Growth Path document.

The party is pushing to implement the document’s proposals despite objections from some in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Mr Mantashe told a briefing after an ANC lekgotla that the jobs the party wanted to see need not necessarily be "decent" — as there was "nothing more (degrading) than being unemployed".

He said calling for the jobs to be decent was "putting the cart before the horse". Mr Mantashe said the ANC lekgotla last week instructed ministers to present plans to create jobs in their areas at the Cabinet lekgotla, taking place in Limpopo until Thursday.

His views were echoed in an address yesterday by former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz, who said in Pretoria: "Unemployment is very bad for the unemployed’s sense of wellbeing, sense of dignity…."

Prof Stiglitz, who serves on the government’s economic advisory panel, gave President Jacob Zuma ’s jobs agenda the thumbs up and mooted initiatives to counter climate change, which could be a driver for economic growth and employment.

Mr Mantashe’s remarks suggest a departure from the party’s 2007 Polokwane declaration of "making the creation of decent work opportunities the primary focus of economic policies".

Experts have warned that the focus on "decent work" would make it even more difficult to make inroads into SA’s problem of large-scale unemployment.

Dropping the emphasis on decent work — also a central plank of the ANC’s 2009 election manifesto — suggests a significant change of tone in the ANC’s approach to unemployment, which stood at 25,3% at the end of the third quarter last year.

"Our view is that jobs must be created. Once created, then those people can engage on conditions of employment," Mr Mantashe said. His comments are certain to upset Cosatu, which has also made "decent work" a central feature of its programmes.

Cosatu has already had to give way on aspects of the New Growth Path, but last night its spokesman, Patrick Craven, refused to give ground on the matter.

"Cosatu fully supports the ANC’s Polokwane policy resolutions that stress … creating decent jobs, and we stand by that," Mr Craven said.

The labour federation objected to some parts of the document at the ANC’s lekgotla last week, but Mr Mantashe said the gathering had agreed to go ahead with implementation and to rectify "contradictions" at a later stage.

Chris Hart, an economist at Investment Solutions, said Mr Mantashe’s statement was not necessarily a departure from the ANC’s Polokwane resolutions.

"The aim is to create decent jobs. But the reality is that at this stage the priority is to create jobs. Five million ‘not so decent jobs’ is better than 20000 permanent jobs," said Mr Hart.

Mr Mantashe also released the ANC’s estimates of jobs that could be created from the proposals contained in a new policy document.

It envisages 250000 new jobs in agriculture, 140000 in mining and beneficiation, 225000 in tourism, 50000 in business services and 300000 in the green economy by 2020, increasing to 400000 in this sector by 2030.

Mr Mantashe said infrastructure development could create 250000 jobs, while employment growth in the public service would rise 10%. The ANC also wants to create 100000 new jobs in the "knowledge" economy and 260000 in the social economy.







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