Labour laws ‘balance’ needed: Gordhan

18 August 2011

South Africa may only create four-million jobs by 2025 on its current growth trajectory unless it modifies some of its labour policies, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Monday.

“This is not enough to make a significant dent in unemployment,” the minister told an internal auditors conference in Johannesburg.

According to Statistics SA, South Africa’s official unemployment rate currently stands at 25.7%.

Under the expanded definition of unemployment – which refers to people of working age without work and available to start work that week, but who had not looked for work in the four weeks before the Stats SA interview – 7.67-million South Africans were unemployed.

New Growth Path

The New Growth Path envisages the creation of five-million jobs by 2020.

Gordhan suggested that South Africa might have to relax its labour laws in certain cases to grow jobs. “We may have to change the way we see the labour dispensation in South Africa,” he said.

For example, a balance needed to be found to retain the jobs of the 10 000 people working at clothing factories in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, while still allowing them to earn a reasonable wage and keeping the factories open.

Factories in the area had threatened to close down and relocate to Lesotho or Botswana if they were forced to pay minimum wages.

Decent work, decent wages

Gordhan said laws might also have to be relaxed to allow young people to enter the workplace and gain skills and experience at lower wages, but not at the expense of people who already had jobs.

Unless such changes were made, “we will not be able to make the breakthrough we need to create jobs in South Africa,” Gordhan said.

However, this would be done in the awareness of the bitter struggle fought against apartheid for human rights, decent work and decent wages, he said.

“… we are not going to lose what we have gained through hard struggles.”

Sapa