The Congress of South African Trade Unions notes the improvement in the level of unemployment. 174 000 fewer people were unemployed in the third quarter of 2011 compared to the second quarter.
While any improvement is welcome, the levels of unemployment are still far too high, the highest out of 61 nations tracked by Bloomberg news agency. 7 504 000 people are still unemployed, which includes discouraged workers who have given up looking for work.
The Stats SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey reveals that unemployment, by the narrow definition which excludes those who have given up looking for work, is 25.0%, a drop of 0.7%. However, the more realistic expanded figure which includes discouraged workers is 36%, down by 0.9% from the second quarter.
The crumb of comfort in these figures is Statistics SA's disclosure that the growth in employment was 193,000 between the second and third quarters when the adult population increased by 120,000. Furthermore, we note that discouraged job-seekers decreased by 3000.
These figures are a warning however that we cannot allow any complacency and that the government must continue to make job creation its top priority and make the ambitious programmes in the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the New Growth Path, and their target of creating 5 million new jobs by 2020, even more relevant.
Although the federation has serious reservations about some elements of the New Growth Path, COSATU believes that government must turn words into deeds and implement the positive components of the NGP to achieve the target of creating five million new jobs by 2020.
Manufacturing must be the key sector has a huge potential to create decent jobs for the millions of unemployed but these figure are not encouraging. The biggest increases in employment were in finance and other business services (64 000), trade (68 000), construction (43 000), mining (42 000) and agriculture (20 000), with manufacturing trailing far behind at 2 000. This means that the structure of the economy remains unchanged.
COSATU has been consistently campaigning for policies to promote manufacturing, including a substantial cut in interest rates and the depreciation of the rand to encourage new investment in job-creating industries, add value to our raw minerals and to make South African exports competitive on a global scale.