Posted on February 13, 2020

South Africa: Solidarity Blames ‘Racial Mathematics’ for Unemployment, Poor Economy

ANA, IOL, February 11, 2020

The latest labour market figures were the result of the South African government’s “obsession with racial mathematics”, labour union Solidarity said on Tuesday.

Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) announced earlier in the day that the country’s official unemployment rate remained unchanged at 29.1% in the the last quarter of 2019.

A breakdown of fourth quarter figures showed that the number of employed people in the country were now at 16,4 million, while the number of jobless stood at 6.7 million.

In this period, the labour force grew by 38 000 people while South Africa’s working-age population increased by 145 000, said StatsSA.

Solidarity said in a statement that government’s “fixation with racial mathematics when it comes to representivity remains one of the main causes of poor economic growth and unemployment”.

“How can one ever expect to tackle the persistent and pernicious unemployment crisis in our country when policy makers are more concerned with figures such as the economically active population (EAP) used to determine employment equity benchmarks than they are with actual unemployment?” asked Solidarity’s head of labour law services, Anton van der Bijl.

He said successful countries were those that did not care “about the colour of productivity”.

“Yet, our government have an issue with the few producers because they are the wrong colour.”

Van der Bijl said Solidarity had been a vocal critic of the economic and social effects of the Employment Equity Act for years and had recently reiterated its opposition in comments on the proposed amendments to the Act by employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi.

He said the union held the firm opinion that the proposed amendments, as well as the “dogmatic application of the EAP” as the definitive criterion for appointments and promotions was unconstitutional, irrational and extremely harmful. This was reflected in Tuesday’s labour force survey, he said.

“Government should look to facilitate growth in the financial results of companies’ annual reports, rather than to try to ensure that the management portrayed on the photos is black,” Van der Bijl added.

He said the union was committed in its efforts to stop the “devastating effects of government’s preoccupation with intervening in private companies’ hiring decisions”.

“Our economy has come to a virtual standstill if it is not outright receding. One of the major factors is that businesspeople are not being afforded the simple opportunity to make their own decisions regarding their workforce.

“In the interests of the entire economy, we must make it clear to government that they are not merely dealing with numbers on a spreadsheet; they are infringing upon the rights of human beings,” said Van der Bijl.