News in South Africa 2nd June:
1. Unemployment rate record high:
The statisticians conclude that the unemployment rate in SA is still climbing and that according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) has reached the highest level since the introduction of the survey in 2008.
The official unemployment rate increased to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021, while the unemployment rate based on the expanded definition of unemployment increased to 42.3%.
Thus, nearly half of all citizens of working age in SA are unemployed.
The figures show that the problem is getting bigger as SA’s largely young population reaches working age, with few new job opportunities.
According to the QLFS, SA’s population of people aged between 15 and 65 has increased by around 600 000 people in the past year, to 39.46 million. More than 17.2 million are classified as not economically active, with most still at school or attending an institution of tertiary education.
Meanwhile, the number of job opportunities in the formal, informal and agricultural sectors, as well as within households, decreased by more than one million compared to a year ago.
Just less than 16 million people were classified as employed, compared to 16.4 million a year ago, according to the report.
The largest employment decreases were observed in private households (a loss of 70 000 jobs), followed by the informal sector (19 000), and the agricultural sector (18 000) in the first quarter of the year compared to the preceding quarter.
Employment increases were only observed in the formal sector (79 000 quarter-on-quarter), but the formal non-agricultural sector lost 700 000 jobs compared to a year ago.
The construction, trade and transport industries continue to lose jobs, with the data also showing alarming trends in differences between age groups and according to gender and race.
The Stats SA figures show that there are 10 million people between the ages of 15 to 24, of whom two million are part of the labour force, either being employed or seeking work. There is not a lot of work for these (mostly first-time) work seekers. The unemployment rate in the age group exceeds 63%.
2. Loadshedding continues till Friday:
Stage 2 load shedding will be implemented from 10:00 on Wednesday morning until 22:00 on Friday, Eskom announced on Tuesday evening.
This is due to further breakdowns of generating units at Majuba and Arnot power stations on Tuesday, as well delays in returning units to service at Arnot and Tutuka power stations, the utility said.
“The emergency generation reserves have been used extensively in the past days to avoid load shedding during the day. This has resulted in these being depleted, reducing available capacity. It is, therefore, necessary to implement load shedding continuously until Friday 22:00 in order to replenish the emergency reserves.”
Emergency generation usually includes open cycle gas turbines, which are powered by diesel, and are much more expensive than burning coal.
3. Former minister benefit cost cuts:
Parliament says it cannot continue to fund some of the benefits by former members of the executive — including medical aid contributions enjoyed by former members of provincial legislatures.
“Clearly, there are things we cannot continue doing. We are engaging former members of the executive on their continued benefits,” said National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise on Tuesday. “The reason is that the budget for former ministers comes from the budget of parliament and we cannot continue to do so.”
Modise was presenting parliament’s budget vote to the National Assembly.
A reduced budget meant the legislature’s spending patterns had to be reviewed and its activities curbed, said Modise.
Parliament has been allocated R2,615,858,000 (about R2.6bn) for the 2021/22 financial year. Its baseline was adjusted downwards for the next three years with budget reductions for 2021/2022 at R256m; R338m for 2022/2023 and R296m for 2023/2024.
“Clearly, we need to give our spending patterns a relook. Is the structure enabling us to work efficiently? Can we curb the size of internal activities or our external ones, what is essential and what can we prioritise?” she said.
Modise said they were also engaging provincial legislatures on the contribution of their former members to the Parmed medical scheme.
“In case members do not know, a member of the legislature who has not set foot in this house, when they retire and continue with Parmed, this house carries the bill,” she said. “What we want to do is not to say we cannot continue, it is to simply ask the legislatures to take their burden over and allow us to continue with our own.”
4. Teachers want vaccinations:
With primary school pupils returning on a full-time basis from next month, teacher unions have asked to be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccination.
They also want the basic education department to monitor the third wave of coronavirus infections before pushing ahead with the decision to fully reopen primary schools in six weeks’ time, even though they said the decision to return full time is the right one.
“The Educators Union of SA (Eusa) maintains its stance that the department should study the behaviour of the virus before making any decisions,” said spokesperson Kabelo Mahlobogwane.
“We continue to warn basic education to stop its obsession of going back to what was before Covid-19 and instead focus on building a new system that will be in line with 4IR [the Fourth Industrial Revolution] and the new normal.”
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced in a government gazette on Friday that all primary school pupils, and pupils at schools catering for those with special education needs, would have to attend school on a daily basis from July 26. This meant the current system of rotational classes would come to an end.
Manuel said teacher unions would have to convince teachers it was necessary for primary schools to return to normal attendance.
“Some agree, others are fearful and worried.”
“As far as vaccinations are concerned, we are going to apply pressure by writing letters to the right people and pointing out the position of teachers and encourage that teachers be higher on the list.”
He said unions have asked for teachers with comorbidities to be placed higher on the list of those waiting to be vaccinated.
“We don’t want to muscle out anybody, but we see ourselves at a higher level than the police or army because we are dealing with larger groups of people at one time.
5. Cuban engineer issues:
Trade union Solidarity said that it would lay a complaint against Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu after she appointed more than 20 Cuban engineers.
Government earlier this year welcomed the group from Cuba to help improve South Africa’s water infrastructure.
The union was seeking clarity on the agreement and has turned to the Public Protector to assist.
It has accused Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu of lying to the public and not being transparent when government contracted the Cuban engineers.
The union claims it has evidence that the engineers do not meet local requirements for licencing and registration, and that they will be staying in the country on the taxpayer’s dime – being paid R300,000 more than South African engineers, and costing taxpayers around R75 million in total, benefits included.
The union is taking the matter further, saying that it’s nonsensical that government hires external engineers when there are local engineers sitting without work.