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Collective Effort Required To Create Jobs

Now that the dust has settled after the elections we can all get on with our lives and the government can get on with running the country with a renewed mandate.

They have quite a job to do in the next five years, and even before the new Cabinet and Parliament have been sworn in they have been confronted by the announcement last week of an increase in the unemployment figures.

Part of the ANC’s election promise was the creation of 275000 new and sustainable jobs a year or 1.3 million jobs during their term of office. But this is only a fraction of the number of people in our country without work.

While it is a massive employer, we all know the government does not have the capacity itself to create jobs and find the many hundreds of thousands of positions to which they have committed. They are the enablers of the economy, which when functioning optimally will gradually bring that 27.6 unemployment percentage figure down and push growth up.

The new government’s job is to create policy certainty that will allow for innovation, giving business the confidence to take risks. With the likelihood of a leaner Cabinet than pre-May 8, the government has committed to no retrenchments in the public sector and to filling all crucial vacancies in the provinces and municipalities.

So, who are the stakeholders to whom the president refers? The answer is that we are all stakeholders in the economy and so we should be looking at our collective role in job creation. What kind of innovative measures can business take to assist in job creation? Initiatives can include rigorous evaluation of the business needs as far as the workforce goes, including training and re-skilling of workers whose roles might be declining even as the demand for new functions grows (think Kodak).

It might mean sacrifices by executives in forgoing huge salary increases and company dividends, redirecting these funds to the retention of jobs and possibly measures to absorb unemployed graduates. Not exactly innovative but an anathema to many private sector companies, and what about the proposal of a business-to-business matchmaking programme linking under-performing companies with those whose capacity is stretched.

Proudly SA, although a registered NPO, has already instigated two of these initiatives. Executives have in the last two pay-rise cycles taken reduced or no salary increases in order to pass on a better percentage increase to staff as well as to have the budget to employ two or three interns at a time, giving them much-needed experience and skills. In our business forums we have introduced a primitive form of matchmaking with Wants and Needs notice boards and this has resulted in a number of professional hook ups.

The growth in the number of innovative enterprise and supplier development programmes by some large corporations speaks to their commitment as so-called big business to assist in the growth of the entrepreneur/SMME sector, which is where the biggest potential for job creation lies.

Increasing demand for the products made by these SMMEs by business and consumers will assist these small businesses to grow.

And there is room for innovation in increasing localisation. The government has placed an emphasis on localisation as a key driver of economic growth, re-industrialisation and job creation and so we are asking business and consumers, in the words of John F Kennedy, to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. And I don’t think anything can better sum up how we all now need to pull together to put the country back on the path to prosperity.

  • Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African.

OPINION: Eustace Mashimbye