Youth wage talks urgent – Gordhan

2012-05-18 15:30
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has called for urgency in discussions on the youth wage subsidy, saying the problem of creating jobs for young people cannot be indefinitely deferred.

A broad range of measures were needed to make progress in expanding employment and alleviating the special problem of youth unemployment, he told the National Assembly during debate on his budget vote today.

These included measures aimed at stronger investment and growth through the infrastructure build programme and economic support package, and addressing skills constraints in the economy through measures to improve access to and the quality of basic, further, and higher education.

Tailored employment policies including the community work programme, environmental sector public work programmes, and the national rural youth service corps received additional allocations in February’s budget and would help boost youth and overall employment in the short-term, he said.

There had been a number of concerns raised with the proposed youth employment incentive. Discussions with social partners were aimed at mitigating these concerns.

The rules, design, and monitoring of a youth employment incentive needed to ensure that it did not have negative unintended consequences, including potential displacement of existing jobs.

“We would like to see these issues addressed fully in discussion between social partners at Nedlac (National Economic Development and Labour Council), but with urgency, as the challenge of creating jobs for young people cannot be indefinitely deferred,” Gordhan said.

Data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey showed overall employment decreased by 75 000 in the first quarter of 2012.

Employment fell across all age groups, with job shedding most severe among those aged 25 to 34 years old (31 000, quarter to quarter), 35 to 45 years (22 000 quarter to quarter), and 55 to 64 years (21 000 quarter to quarter).

Employment for all age groups (except those aged 35 to 44) remained below the pre-crisis level, although young people aged 15 to 24 years continued to be worst affected (360 000 or 20% below 2008 levels), Gordhan said.