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How to put SA’s 8.3m unemployed to work by Herman Mashaba

December 17, 2014

This is an edited version of Herman Mashaba’s Address yesterday to the University of Stellenbosch Executive Development Annual Award Certificate Ceremony.

I’m greatly troubled by the fact that we have 8.3 million unemployed people in this country. What is it about this tragic situation that makes good people shut their minds to the problem? Why is it that so many people are unemployed when there is so much to be done in this country?

I have no doubt that under different circumstances, private entrepreneurs would find work for everyone who wants to work. The reason people don’t get jobs, is that the labour laws have imposed risks and costs on potential employers that they cannot afford to carry. If we remove these unnecessary risks and costs much more employment will happen.

Let me make it absolutely crystal clear what I am talking about:

Am I in favour of what is described as slave labour? No!

Am I against what is described as decent jobs? No!

Am I in favour of creating conditions that will lead to rapid economic growth? Yes!

Do we need rapid economic growth to absorb all of our 8,3m unemployed brothers and sisters into the labour force? Yes!

Can we increase labour absorption even if we don’t have high economic growth? Yes!

How? By removing the barriers to employment!

How? By changing the laws to allow the unemployed to decide for themselves what they think is a decent job?

Will the views of unemployed people about what is a decent job be different to yours or mine? Probably!

Should they be able to take jobs that we think are not decent and we would be inclined to urge them not to accept? Yes, it is their decision and not ours!

Is that not a callous and inhumane approach to take? No! It is callous and inhumane to take away their decision-making power over their lives by adopting laws, such as minimum wage laws, that remove every opportunity they might otherwise have had.

Would I misuse the situation and treat people badly? No! And you would not do so either.

What would be the difference? The difference would be that you and I would not end up in the CCMA for giving a jobless person a chance by paying them an agreed rate for their work.

The difference would be that our unemployed brothers and sisters would have hope, the dignity of having a job and the ability to put bread on the table for their families. South Africa can join economically free nations. All we have to do is start by properly implementing the rule of law. Ensure that everyone, employer and employee, trade union member and unemployed person, the wealthy and the poor, all the members of our rainbow nation, have equality before the law. Once this is in place, peace and prosperity will be ours. And it is up you, as future leaders of our democracy, to inspire the nation by making sure that the rule of law is applied.

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From → Analysis, Jobs, Opinion

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