Up front, the priorities of this Department this year and during the 6th Administration are:
With the expansion of the mandate in 2019, and the need to reconfigure as Employment and Labour, the Department's focus has been strengthened in regard to job creation and retention, particularly youth employment.
This has been done against the backdrop of difficult economic conditions, both nationally and internationally. Although the economy is showing early signs of a rebound, the rate of recovery falls far short of what is required to create sustainable jobs for the most vulnerable in the country, particularly youth, people with disabilities and African women. The unemployment rate remains high at 32,7% as at Quarter 4 of 2022. One glimmer of light: there was an increase of 86 000 in the number of employed youth during the same period.
From the side of the Department, in order to contribute to the alleviation of unemployment, the UIF's Labour Activation Programme will continue to fund projects to maintain and create employment:
In the 2023-2024 financial year:
The UIF is currently reviewing its funding model to further increase support for job creation.
The UIF will continue to pursue the objectives of the R5 billion partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation in creating and retaining jobs. The fund supports start-ups and existing businesses.
Productivity SA continues to promote employment growth and productivity through the Competitiveness Improvement Services (CIS). Over the past three financial years, the CIS Programme provided support to SMMEs in both the formal and informal economy, and consistently achieved 100% performance on its planned targets.
We are now beginning to see the positive results of the Turnaround Strategies and Labour Activation Programmes. 186 companies facing economic distress were supported and these interventions resulted in nearly 16,000 jobs being retained.
It is now mandatory for every business that receives assistance from the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) to implement the Business Turnaround and Recovery programme. In this way, we have created synergy between our financial and non-financial instruments aimed at job preservation. It is important to flag that the reconfiguration of the Department will strengthen the focus on improved productivity as key to growth and jobs.
Productivity SA aims to support 37 250 Enterprises, place 1250 students/youth, and contribute a total of 113 000 jobs over the 5 year period.
Oiling the wheels of the labour market, the Department will launch the upgraded Employment Services System of South Africa (ESSA). This will make it easier for work seekers to access employment opportunities.
The Department will also offer more than 200 unemployed graduates an internship opportunity this year, extending the programme that was started during the last financial year. These internship programmes are offered by departments across government at every level.
Supported Employment Enterprises (SEE) as part of its legislative mandate will increase employment of people with disabilities at its factories from the current 940 to 1250 during the current year. The Department will also provide subsidies to nine organisations that will provide work opportunities to 1041 workers with disabilities.
Focusing on unemployed youth, the Department in partnership with the Presidency and the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC), will continue to support the development of the Pathway Management Network - bringing together multiple online networks of training and employment opportunities - also providing support to unemployed youth through the establishment of an Innovation Fund and support to a National Youth Service.
Decent work, policy and legislation
Even as the Department seeks to leverage its resources to support job creation and retention, we do not lose sight of our traditional mandate to regulate the labour market and labour relations with the objective of strengthening decent work and conditions conducive to a stable labour market and growth.
Policy and legislative priorities during this administration include the following:
Equal opportunity in the labour market is at the core of decent work and workplace transformation.
The Department and its entities, led by Nedlac, are also charged with strengthening social dialogue. Last year this mandate focused on the establishment of a new Social Compact. Much was learned from this process, with the focus now on developing specific compacts by economic sector some of which have been successfully concluded. These efforts are now focused on defined priority areas, currently: energy, transport and crime.
Nedlac achievements in 2022/23 include:
Nedlac planned activities for 2023/24 include: progress with labour law reforms which focus on improving the effectiveness of labour laws as well as extending them to atypical workers and emerging issues such as the future of work, remote work and the just transition.
Inspection and Enforcement
It is all very well to devise good policies and laws, but they also have to be implemented and enforced. The Department's Inspection and Enforcement Services (labour inspectors) have been expanded and strengthened in recent years, particularly since the Covid19 pandemic – resulting in over 100,000 Health and Safety inspections in the last year.
In relation to Employment Equity laws our inspectors are currently focused on JSE-listed companies to ensure compliance. For 2022/23 we referred 238 companies to court for failure to comply.
National roving teams are conducting a blitz programme focused on high risk and problematic sectors to ensure compliance with the NMW and Basic Conditions of Employment Act. During the last year, the Department carried out over 300,000 inspections – seeking to promote compliance, fair labour practices, decent work and a safe workplace.
IES also seeks to realize the 'Durban Call to Action' to combat child labour, and to advance ILO Recommendation 204 which, among others, seeks to improve the rights and conditions of workers in the informal sector.
Access and service
Good legislation and plans can also be compromised by inadequate access and service. Historical and systemic challenges within the two funds (Compensation Fund and UIF) are being addressed. Relevant professional capacity has been in-sourced to strengthen the programmes to tackle negative audit findings, and for a more fundamental and thorough-going review of systems architecture across the Funds. These interventions will be strengthened during the current year.
Despite the challenges, the Funds continue to provide critical social security protection to workers – through UIF and the Compensation Fund which paid benefits of R4 billion in the 2022/23 financial year. The benefits consist of monthly pensions, salaries, funeral benefits and medical expenses. The Compensation Fund has developed a tertiary bursary programme for dependents of permanently and deceased injured workers.
The UIF will strengthen monitoring of its investments with the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to ensure due diligence and fair returns.
We are also pleased to report significant progress in recovering Covid19 Ters funds wrongly or fraudulently paid. The SIU, Asset Forfeiture Unit, the President's Fusion Centre, working with the UIF's 'Follow the Money' programme, have recovered R61 million as at 31 March 2023. There have been 60 arrests with 12 individuals sentenced including a Ms Moremi sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and Mr L.P. Gumede sentenced to 20 years. A large number of additional matters are still under investigation.
Finally, I need to mention South Africa's role as the Presidency of BRICS during the current year. The second BRICS Employment Working Group technical group is meeting to prepare for the BRICS Summit to be hosted by South Africa in Durban later this year. The technical group is focusing, amongst others, on the relationship between productivity and employment.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the DM, the DG and his team for their commitment and hard work.
The budget allocation to the Department is R1,092,225,000 (1 billion, 92 million, two hundred and twenty-five thousand Rand). I move Budget Vote 31.
© 2019 - The South African Department of Employment & Labour