President Cyril Ramaphosa says the latest employment figures – which show a decline in the unemployment rate for the second quarter of 2021 – are cause for cautious optimism in the recovery of the economy.
The President was addressing the nation through his weekly newsletter on Monday morning.
The statistics show a decline in unemployment from 34.5% in the first quarter of 2022 to 33.9%.
“Over the last few years, South Africans have had to contend with slow growth and rising unemployment. This has been worsened by a devastating pandemic, an attempted insurrection unrest in July last year, and, earlier this year, severe floods in parts of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and North West.
“Amidst all this, the energy crisis has loomed large, causing damage to the economy and hardship for households and businesses. Yet, even amidst these formidable challenges, our society and economy has proven to be resilient. And indications are that our economy is showing encouraging signs of recovery,” President Ramaphosa said.
The statistics also indicate some 648 000 job gains in that same period and according to the President while this is to be welcomed, “much more needs to be done” to slow unemployment even further.
The President added that employment gains show that government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan – which focuses on mass public employment, economic reform and infrastructure development – is making headway in creating jobs.
“With infrastructure development and investment being one of the key priorities of our recovery plan, the growth in jobs in the construction area is particularly encouraging. The February budget outlined a 30% increase in spending on public infrastructure over the next three years to R812 billion, compared to R627 billion over the past three years.
“The Construction Industry Development Board recently noted that there has been an increase in infrastructure projects driven by state-owned enterprises like Transnet and Eskom, but also in the metros and through the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure,” he said.
The President emphasised that structural reform processes undertaken by government are “difficult but necessary” and that these reforms are yielding results in assisting the economy to grow.
He called on government, labour, business and civil society to forge consensus on these reforms and “trade-offs that are necessary to achieve our goals”.
“While our economy takes time to recover and our reform programme is implemented, we will continue to pursue a range of complementary interventions to support job creation. Alongside the measures that supports private sector growth, we will expand public employment and ensure social protection for the most vulnerable.
“The growth in employment, together with other promising signs of recovery, should encourage us to push ahead with the reforms and implement our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan to unlock investment and growth. It should encourage all social partners to work more closely and with greater urgency and purpose to achieve faster growth and create more jobs,” President Ramaphosa said.