26 October 2011

Dear Comrades, friends and fellow young South Africans

Today we are paging yet another important leaf in the history of youth struggles against unemployment, inequality and poverty. By being participants in this historic 2nd National Jobs for Youth Summit, we declare ourselves to be counted as those who in the midst of brewing chaos we sought for immediate and long-term solution.

Instead of exacerbating the socio-economic challenges facing young people in our country, we hold in our hands and possess the power to change the course of history for the better, for every young person within our borders.

We are gathering under the theme “Jobs for Youth to End Poverty and Inequality”. We chose this theme because we realise the centrality of jobs in restoring the dignity of our youth, bridging inequalities and breaking the circle of poverty. We need young people to be educated, skilled, become entrepreneurs or be part of youth cooperatives in order to realise all these objectives.

Discussing jobs also means discussing every facet of our economy from education to skills development; from economic ownership and control to poverty eradication; from decent healthcare to better human settlement; from infrastructure development to rural development; from water and sanitation to a decent livelihood. We will leave no issue untouched and no stone unturned as we seek the truth from facts and solutions from man-made problems. We are the future.

In our multitudes, we represent young people in the countryside whose hopes are dashed by the disconnection between them and the city lights. We represent young people in the townships who are hopeful that the massive steel structure called the city that locks them into perpetual poverty must be melted to build a better and decent future.

We represent young people in the factory floors who have been contracted to labour brokers for years and remain temporary workers their entire lives. We represent young people in schools and universities who hope that their Grade 12 results and university degrees will present them with better opportunities than their brothers and sisters who remain unemployed.

We are the voices of the 5.6 million young people; Black, Indian, Coloured and White who hope that their job applications will be responded to in a positive manner. We represent the young black women who are crossing their fingers that the postman will bring better news from the last job interviews they went to last week or the week before.

We represent the B.Com graduate who have applied for finance for their entrepreneurial and innovative ideas from the National Empowerment Fund, or the Industrial Development Corporation, or one of the many funds and institutions set up by government to support such initiatives; and are hoping for a positive response.

We must hasten to declare that this is not a political point scoring session but a platform within which voices of young people have to be heard. We are convened from different political, religious, traditional and socio-economic backgrounds not to cherish our differences. Our common and universal enemy is youth unemployment.

We are here because we chose to be part of providing a solution. We are here because we are willing to shed the shell imposed on us by the diverse lineages. We are here because in our different ideological underpinnings, we know that we hold the key that will produce a “Jobs for Youth Blueprint.”

What happened since the last time we met?

At the beginning of last years` Summit, we asked ourselves critical questions which we believe are at the heart of facilitating youth employment. These were, for instance:
Why do we not have a South African car, manufactured locally and having a multiplier effects towards jobs?

Why do we import fluorescent bulbs or solar panels from China instead of manufacturing them locally because we have the capacity to do so?
Why do we import cellphone mobile gadgets or desktop computers and laptops instead of manufacturing them locally when countries whose developmental levels are far lower than ours are having that capacity?

We declared at the time that “there are innovative ways which will be for the support of real entrepreneurs rather than the tenderpreneurs who are dependent on government tenders. Government should support young entrepreneurs who have capacity for local production through factories and generate employment, rather than supporting BEE and shareholder capitalism in the speculative economy that does not yield jobs and not support employment creation.”

The delegates to the first Summit pushed government to declare 2011 as “The year of Jobs”. This was declared by the President of the Republic during his state of the nation address. In that address, the President called for the following:

  • The filling of all vacant posts in government departments by August 2011. In our calculations, if this has been done, and we hope the Deputy Minister in the Presidency will provide answers, this would have created more than 450 000 sustainable and quality jobs;
  • The creation of 5 million jobs by 2030 with focus on young unemployed South Africans;
  • The focus on manufacturing, green jobs and jobs within the social economy as per the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan II;
    These were some of the critical pronouncements made at the time. We clearly need answers.
    Since then, the Minister of Labour introduced Labour Amendments laws which should be passed through parliament in 2013. The intention of these will be to improve the quality of work and equality at work. They will also be intended at strengthening our labour laws to ensure that if young people joins the labour market, the quality of their wages do not widen income inequalities but seeks to redress the imbalances of the past.

There was R9bn announced by the Minister of Finance and is administered by the Development Bank of South Africa to support initiatives for youth employment creation.

The Ministry of Finance has introduced the Youth Wage Subsidy Discussion Document to look into the state of youth unemployment and support for the private sector in creating youth employment.

We may agree or not agree with its proposals, but this is the platform which must be used to ensure that young people are absorbed into the labour market.
In the same period, other very negative actions happened in our economy which had an impact on the unemployment rate of our country and on youth in particular.

According to the Minister of Finance`s Medium Term Framework Budget Statement released yesterday, more than 420 000 jobs in the last 6 months were lost whilst a mere 210 000 new jobs were created in the same period. This we cannot accept and the tide has to change if we are to give hope to the 5.6 million young unemployed South Africans.

According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS: Q2, 2011) there are 4.5 million unemployed people, if we use the narrow definition. Of this, more than 25.7% of them are young people. If we include discouraged work-seekers, the figure rises to 6.7 million.

Youth unemployment (between the ages of 15-35) make up 3.2 million or 71.4% of the entire unemployed population. Youth unemployment has actually reached crises proportions. This is a scary realty and the highest in terms of global trends that requires no semantics and empty political rhetoric but grounded action from all those involved.

Of the 13.1 million employed South Africans, 20% or 1.31 million of these are in the public sector. There are opportunities in the informal sector to create sustainable jobs that will have an impact on youth employment creation.

It is the purpose of this Summit to look into how the 3.2 million young people can become an active economic force for the eradication of poverty and unemployment. Many of us from our different organisations have lots of ideas on how this can be done.
Our being here should be to pour out those ideas, engage them robustly and contribute towards a “Jobs for Youth Blueprint” that will be used to engage government, the private sector and also inform the different youth initiatives to be supported by the Jobs for Youth Coalition.

In the course of this Summit, we will be receiving speeches and presentations and be told what has been done and what will be done. Our central question to all the speakers and presenters will be: Why are we doing the same thing and expect different results? What are the different things that needs to be done to change the course of history in terms of youth unemployment.
But more importantly, we should emphasise our commitment to the following key tasks that our government and country face in order to realise more jobs for our youth. These points can be summarised as follows:

We need to make education more fashionable: In order for young people to be employed or employable, we need to ensure that they love education. Young people should never prefer the life of glitz, bling and glamour by pursuing tenders and “easy money” but should focus on their education. It is a misnomer that we have more shebeens, prisons and police training academies than we have schools, universities and FET colleges. We cannot have school dropouts who have never seen a factory floor or had a payslip earning more than teachers, doctors, nurses and university professors.

We must challenge the media to profile real heroes and role models instead of fake celebrities who cherish the life of crime and corruption. In the same way that government should provide quality education and skills, we have the responsibility to challenge fake role models who don the showbiz section of our newspapers worshipping money, blitz, bling and glamour.
We should set targets for government to produce plumbers, electricians, bricklayers, electronic engineers, teachers, nurses, agricultural scientists, carpenters, spray-painters, window panel makers, film-makers, panel-beaters, welders and many other professions that will result in immediate and direct jobs or job opportunities. Every public space must be used for training of artisans and tradesmen.

We need to change the face of our economy: It is a shame that more than 80% of the Top 100 Companies in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is still owned by white males whilst they constitute less than 5% of the population. It is also a shame that of the 17 000 companies assessed by the Commission of Employment Equity, 73% of senior management still remains white whilst only 13% are black, 6.8% are Coloured and 4.8% are Indian. This is worsened by the fact that recruitments are targeted or favours mainly white people. This is clearly a reflection of our past and the need to enforce current existing legislation. But if the youth of our country are to have hope in the future of democracy, we need to see more changes.

Real change should be seen in the ownership and control of, and the empowerment of new entrants, in terms of ownership. We need to see more Black, Indian and Coloured owned companies supported through state development finance. If we cannot transform the existing cake to reflect the demographics of our country, we should either grow the cake or our people will sooner or later rise up and take the cake in a violent fashion.

The change in the economy should also be seen in terms of change in income levels. We should support calls for drastic cuts in the payment of senior executives in both the private sector and parastatals, which are clearly out of control. Some of the companies argue that they pay these senior executives at international rates, but we should then demand that workers should also be paid at international rates. If a worker for a bank in the US is earning $5 000 a month, a worker in our country at the same production rates and levels should also earn R50 000 a month. This, in our view, will help curb the widening income inequalities which has made South Africa`s levels the highest in the world.

We will have a dedicated discussion on the transformation of the mining sector, and how it impacts on ownership, control and employment creation. Our mineral resources must yield jobs and change the lives of our people as a collective rather than of few individuals across the sea.

We need to transform the redistribution patterns: One of the key problems with the distributive/allocative function of the state is its bias towards developed urban areas. Let us ask ourselves how much government services are spent in roads, hospitals, schools or recreational facilities in the urban areas as compared to rural areas? This has led to movement by our people into the urban areas, which has led to informal settlements, high unemployment rates, crime, poor education and healthcare, pressures on water and sanitation.

Yesterday the Minister of Finance announced that the state will be spending more than 40% of GDP and for the first time, expand state expenditure to more than One Trillion Rand. How much of these will go into improving the lives of our people in the countryside? How much will go into dedicated rural development and agricultural production? How much of this will be invested into social needs of our people in the rural areas? How much of it will build better roads to connect the rural countryside and the urban areas in order for there to be change in the lives of our people?

We need support for youth cooperatives and SMME`s: For our economy to prosper, and for more and more young people to be absorbed into the labour market, we need diverse in terms of local production. Our Research and Development capacity remains questionable. If both the new Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan 2 are to succeed, we need to invest in R&D and the overall capacity of our youth. We ask the same questions as we did last year about a South African car, computer, cellphone, solar panels, fluorescent lights and many other possible innovative initiatives.

All of these will require a dedicated and focused discussion by all of us. We are diverse in character, but that is what constitutes our strength. The task of youth leadership should not be to further create bridges when there is a common challenge of youth unemployment, the task of youth leadership is to unite this section of society behind a popular and pragmatic programme.
Our meeting together over the next three days may result in difference of opinion, but how we emerge from that will be critical. Our task is to come out of here daring those who refuse the inevitable change in the status quo that we will trample on them.

Our task will also be to show those who relegate young people as empty and unthinking vessels who shout empty slogans that they are wrong, and that we are better placed to solve the challenges of the now and of the future.

We can only inspire confidence in the millions of young people out there if we show that our meeting was not about our jackets but about their needs, interests and aspirations. The time for leaders in government and the private sector to place youth issues and interests at the centre of their other plans have come.

There shall be no future without us, for we are the future. South Africa belongs to all of us, black and white.

Lets all, therefore, be counted as part of the solution!

Buti Manamela
YCL National Secretary

Office Line (011) 3392621
Fax Line (011)3394244
Email motshedisiletuka@yahoo.com