South Africa’s citizens are concerned about the diminishing economic standard of the country especially as it increases poverty and economic inequality in the country. But the executive director of the Centre for Development and Enterprise Ann Bernstein said this could be corrected if SA fixes its skills system from beginning to end.
Speaking at the Cape Town Press Club on Wednesday afternoon to launch the centre’s publication of The Growth Agenda, Bernstein gave a statistics showing that 35% to 54% of South Africans are extremely poor and have to survive on between R500 to R750 per month and that government was doing less than expected to address the issue.
In addition, Ann Bernstein said at least 7.5 million people in South Africa are unemployed. “They want to work, but they can’t find jobs. And out of a population of 53 million people 22 million adults have no matric. That’s why we’re such an unequal society.”
According to her, government strategies were aimed at ameliorating poverty and societal imbalance rather than eradicating it. “We’ve done all these re-distributive things, yet an enormous amount of people continue to live in poverty.”
The Centre for Development and Enterprise had in its publication, noted a number of guidelines that will help bring about economic reform of South Africa – one of which is to allow the private sector to create jobs for the high number of unskilled people.
“We need jobs for the workforce that we actually have – unskilled people – not the one we wish we had. We need to ask ourselves: is it better to be unemployed, or employed with a low wage?”
World Bank also noted that 18 million manufacturing jobs are moving away from China because of the phenomenal rise in wages for jobs. These industries are now moving to places, such as Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines.
Ann Bernstein confirms this by revealing that the world’s manufacturing is changing its location and that no other country in the world could move successfully from desperate rural poverty to becoming a developed nation without first going through a “factory stage”.
“Just think about it, if we can get a fraction of those jobs it would be fantastic…We have massive unemployment because we’ve tried to cut out the factory stage.” she added.
At the moment, only SA’s government is allowed to create low-wage jobs for unskilled people through its extended public works programmes but Bernstein said these jobs are not permanent hence the government should give room for private sector to help move the economic ladder up
“We’re not saying it’s good that people have low skills levels,” She said, “The prospects of transformation and achieving an equal society depend on broad access to quality education and training,” she added.
The the center’s publication of The Growth Agenda was a result of a two year-project to pin down the main priorities to get South Africa back on a job-rich growth path.