State always bails out corrupt SOEs but couldn’t help companies save jobs during lockdown

Time of article published25m ago

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By Thabiso Mohlabeng

Africa’s biggest economy was already in recession prior to Covid-19 reaching our shores, but the lockdown has further strangled the South African economy.

Our employment rate could reach 40% due to the impact of Covid-19 and strict lockdown regulations that saw many businesses struggle to stay open while others completely shut down.

Three million South Africans have already lost their jobs due to the pandemic and current estimates state about 1.5 million South Africans will lose their jobs soon.

The government seems to regard mass unemployment as an unfortunate but unavoidable symptom of Covid-19.

The sudden collapse of employment was not inevitable.

It is instead a disastrous failure of government policy that has caused immediate harm to the lives of millions of South Africans, and it will leave a long-lasting scar on South Africans’ futures, societal behaviour and will have an even worse effect on the battered economy.

Gloomy days still lie ahead concerning the outlook of our labour market with big firms such as telecommunications firm Cell C, food producer Tiger Brands and steel producer ArcelorMittal South Africa having already announced plans for job cuts.

We need to note the entertainment industry has yet to open.

South African communities are choking in poverty, and most middle-class communities are also starting to fall off into poverty.

The pain is being felt and will continue to be felt by mostly the marginalised (poverty-stricken communities) who had been struggling even before the Covid-19 crisis due to unequal economic growth.

The first and best chance of avoiding mass unemployment was to keep the coronavirus under control, by having the first few cases quarantined at government facilities and using strict tracing and testing.

But since that has clearly failed, the government could have still prioritised employment by paying companies to keep workers on the job during the lockdown.

For example, under Germany’s Kurzarbeit scheme, the government even considered part-time workers, and this was done to protect existing jobs.

Protecting jobs is important because compensated work provides a sense of identity, purpose and independence.

When people lose their jobs in South Africa, it means many mouths go to bed without food, as often only one breadwinner feeds the immediate and extended family.

The truth is the government has always prioritised bailing out corruption-ridden state entities, but this time it should have been the turn of the people on the ground to be prioritised by having their jobs protected.

The bailouts given to certain industries are welcome and have helped them stay afloat, but the truth is we’d all be better off if the ANC government had helped those who lost their jobs keep them instead.

Saving jobs is saving lives!

Mohlabeng is Boston Media House graduate. He holds a Media Practice diploma, specialising in Social Media, Personality Manager and PR Manager.

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