Honourable Chair and members of the NCOP
Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers present, particularly the Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour
The honourable Chair and members of the Select Committee
The Director-General and senior management of the Department and its entities
Ladies and gentlemen
I want to begin by flagging a South African achievement: the successful 5th Global Conference for the Elimination of Child Labour – held in Durban recently – a success in the face of the devastating floods.
Deliberating on whether to continue with the event, we concluded that what the province needed now was to restore its economy – and bringing 3,000 conference guests to the province would contribute to the tourism and hospitality sector - with thousands more viewing on the virtual platform and able to see what South Africa can offer.
And of course, it was important that we continued to provide this important platform to bring together social partners and civil society from around the world to engage and share best practice – for the purpose of eliminating child labour by 2025 in line with the sustainable goals set by the United Nations.
So our thanks for the support from across government: from the Presidency to national departments, to the Premier of the province and the municipality.
To the Budget Vote: …
Strategically, the Department seeks to:
This approach underpins our efforts to reconfigure the Department to strengthen the employment mandate.
These tasks are made more difficult by the unprecedented levels of unemployment – currently standing at 34.5% according to the Stats SA Labour Force Survey for the 1st Quarter of 2022 - a slight improvement on the previous Quarter at 35.3%.
Similarly, a 1.9% GDP growth for Quarter One of 2022 gives grounds for cautious optimism – with GDP returning to pre-Covid levels.
The factors behind high unemployment are well-known:
Under the current circumstances of high unemployment, the state has to intervene, including via the Presidential Employment Stimulus has already benefitted some 800,000 South Africans, youth in particular.
In recent years, the Department has received a favourable unqualified audit from the Auditor-General. In respect of the 2021/22 audit that is currently underway, it is envisaged that, once again, an unqualified opinion will be received. The same applies for the CCMA, Productivity SA and Nedlac. We also anticipate improved findings for the two Funds: UIF and Compensation Fund.
Plans are being implemented to fundamentally review the organisational architecture, systems and processes of the Funds. This will not happen overnight – and there are no short-cuts to fixing systemic problems.
Forensic auditors have been engaged to address the widespread fraud and corruption which occurred in the Funds. The benefits, in the case of the UIF Covid-19 Ters programme, are already being felt with the return of nearly R1 billion in irregular and illegal payments.
Audit Action Plans were implemented to address the areas identified by the Office of the Auditor-General. The UIF has already moved from a disclaimer to a qualified audit – a gain achieved in the face of massively increased claims for unemployment and relief benefits.
We can agree that the key to improved performance is strengthening good governance, and fighting fraud and corruption.
In 2020 we announced the addition of 500 Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) inspectors and their work is yielding results. In 2019/20 there were 28,000 OHS inspections. In 2021/22, this jumped to 62,000 inspections.
Last year there were 36,000 compliant and 26,000 non-compliant employers, with Eastern Cape leading the field on non-compliance at over 9,000 cases. The most common forms of non-compliance relate to:
To deal with these challenges the Branch has developed national mega blitz inspection plans to cover backlogs and priority areas. The inspectors will visit 839,000 workplaces over the next five years.
Enhancing social security for workers is one of our priorities. The Compensation Fund implemented the new claims management system and results include an improvement in the adjudication of claims. As at 31 December 2021, a total of over 90,000 claims were received, of which 79% were adjudicated within 30 working days of receipt.
When the Compensation Fund seeks to strengthen an efficient on-line system to manage verified claims, that brings the Fund into conflict with vested interests – the third party middlemen – an industry that grew up exactly because of the past inefficiencies of the Fund. If the Fund successfully reforms itself, the reason for their existence falls away.
The Fund continues to ensure that Medical Service Providers are paid. Of the 533,000 claims received as at 31 December 2021, 87% were finalised within 40 working days of receipt. Some 8,000 requests for pre-authorisation of Specialised Medical Interventions were received during this period and 97% were finalised within 10 working days of receipt.
The Fund paid a total of R 3.3 billion in benefits, of which 93% was paid within five working days.
I believe that members of the Portfolio Committee witnessed the smooth processing of claims – for both Funds – on their oversight visit to the Eastern Cape.
The Compensation Fund continues with the Rehabilitation Programme which includes provision of assistive devices. Persons with Disabilities are enrolled in Vocational Rehabilitation Programmes through Post-School Education and Training institutions, and fully funded.
Return to Work programmes ensure that those who are injured in the workplace are reintegrated into the labour market.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) played a significant role during the lockdown period. In a drive to cushion workers and businesses, over R64 billion has been spent by the UIF towards COVID-19 TERS benefits - helping sustain economic activity across every province and community.
In response to the July riots, TERS funded another programme: Workers Affected by Unrest (WABU). To date, over 4,000 employees were paid the relief at an expenditure of about R14 million. More WABU payments will be made upon completion of the due diligence process.
In response to the jobs crisis, the UIF has created and saved jobs through investment with the Industrial Development Corporation to the tune of R5 billion over five years. These investments support SMEs, black industrialists, women-owned companies and start-ups, as well as preserving existing jobs.
Through the UIF Labour Activation Programme (LAP), the Department contributes to training of the unemployed as part of government initiatives to stimulate the creation of jobs in the labour market:
Of importance is that the Labour Activation Programme has taken a strategic direction that training of the unemployed should be demand-led and lead to employment at the end of the training period.
In the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period, the LAP has planned for 75,000 participants in programmes that enhance their employability.
The UIF will continue to pursue the government's drive to pay suppliers within 30 calendar days. As at the end of Quarter 3 of 2021/2022, the Fund has paid 98% of its received invoices within 30 calendar days.
To look at policy and legislation: …..
Promote equity in the workplace, Parliament, on 29 November 2021, ratified the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace.
In order to fulfil the international obligations that emanate from this, the Department developed – in consultation with social partners - a step-by-step, practical 'Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace', released 18 March 2022.
Over the last year, the Department has extended 26 collective agreements to non-parties. This is critical in fighting persistent poverty and inequality experienced by so many working people.
The National Minimum Wage Act was assented to in 2018, setting a historic precedent in the protection of low-earning (vulnerable) workers in South Africa and provided a platform for reducing inequality and the huge disparities in income.
The 6.9% adjustment of the National Minimum Wage increased rates from R21.69 to R23.19 per hour, effective from March 1, 2022 – applicable to all sectors.
The Department's Public Employment Services (PES) branch which drives the implementation of the labour market policies, including the provision of free career counselling, job placing, retraining and up-skilling - strives to create an enabling environment for employment growth.
At an operational level the Department of Employment and Labour continues to provide support to many desperate work seekers. For the period April 2021 to 28 February 2022: 59,000 unemployed work seekers were placed in employment opportunities. It is important that this service is utilised across the economy and across the public sector.
The Department also actively participates in the digital Pathway Network Management system, which as at January 2022, offered 674,000 job opportunities. Over the two phases of the Presidential Youth Employment Stimulus, 596,000 appointments of school assistants have been made - the single largest youth employment programme in the country, supporting the aims of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention.
The Department will also extend UIF LAP training projects aimed at creating jobs, particularly for the youth, in the fibre optics, food handling and mixed farming sectors.
We will also establish 10 specialized Youth Centres over the coming two years – in addition to our 126 Labour Centres. Part-time centres, mobile centres and the Departmental buses – expand the physical reach of employment services to more remote areas.
During 2021/2022, a total of 991 workers with disabilities and 48 administrative staff were subsidized. A total of R20.9 million was paid to these workers as at the end of Quarter 4 of 2021 to support this employment programme.
The Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration – the CCMA's - section 189A processes for the period 01st April 2021 to 31st December 2021 resulted in 44% of jobs being saved - 14,000 jobs of those employees threatened with retrenchment.
The Employment Equity Amendment Bill is intended to expedite the pace of transformation in the labour market and ensure that those non-compliant organisations that resist transformation do not continue to financially benefit from state contracts or doing business with the state.
The Employment Equity Amendment Bill and COID Amendment Bill have been adopted in the National Assembly, and I look forward to the members of the NCOP applying their minds to the two Bills.
Other pieces of legislation for legislators' consideration are the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Amendment Bill and the Employment Services Amendment Bill.
The draft National Labour Migration Policy (NLMP) has been released for comment. In addition, the Department is conducting a national roadshow to engage stakeholders in workshops. The policy seeks to balance:
The Department has also led the process of developing the South African National Employment Policy, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization and leading local experts. Following a rigorous situational analysis, the first draft of the policy has been completed for consultation with social partners.
Finally, let me thank the Deputy Minister, the staff of the Department, and the Commissioners and Executives of entities – led by the DG - for their commitment and hard work in achieving targets and continuing to provide services in very difficult conditions.
Honourable Chairperson, I hereby table the budget of the Department of Employment and Labour for 2022/23 – an amount just short of R4 billion.
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