- Workplace compliance with Covid-19 protocols has been "extremely poor" and should be improved, National Planning Commissioner Miriam Altman has said.
- Businesses and workers impacted by Covid-19 should be given more support, and "we need to drive more forceful support to stimulate labour-absorbing industries," she said.
- Altman warned that South Africa was not on track to meet employment targets for 2030 set in the National Development Plan, and she said the pandemic would make this more difficult.
Workplace compliance with Covid-19 protocols has been "extremely poor" and should be improved, National Planning Commissioner Miriam Altman has said.
"While we are now focusing on the [Covid-19] vaccine, no doubt that's important, these protocols are the most important things within our power [to improve]," she told a webinar on Thursday morning about the progress of the implementation of the National Development Plan.
She said according to labour department statistics, health and safety compliance in South Africa is generally poor, and Covid-19 compliance was particularly poor in the public service.
'You have to do it'
"Even if there is a vaccine and even if there are Covid lockdowns, the compliance with health protocols - you will just not get around it. You have to do it," she said. "We need more activism across the population and partnerships around that."
She said Covid-19 would still be around for "some time", attacking especially the face-to-face services where most people worked, like restaurants, retail, and hospitality.
She said the department should ensure that businesses adopted the health protocols, while businesses should cooperate to help build workplace support, surveillance and compliance.
"They should support digital services to enable movement of people and feedback loops," she said.
Businesses and workers impacted by Covid-19 should be given more support, and "we need to drive more forceful support to stimulate labour-absorbing industries," she said. An example of that was to strengthen digital services to enable more tourism, which could be safely done.
Altman warned that South Africa was not on track to meet employment targets for 2030 set in the National Development Plan, and she said the pandemic would make this more difficult.
"We created 2.5 million jobs between 2010 and 2019 but we still have a 1.5 million shortfall. We only achieved 60% of the target and for 2020 it will be much lower," she said.
"We lost over 2 million jobs in 2020 and it will bounce back but we don't know to what an extent," she said, adding that "nevertheless we know it's not going to be a good story".
Manufacturing in South Africa has dropped instead of increasing, contributing to 313 000 jobs lost from 2010 to 2019.
Small firms were supposed to increase because they are big employment creators, "but their share in total employment fell from 64% to 55% from 2008 to 2015," she said, adding that there was hardly any growth in absolute numbers too.
More bad news was that fewer under 25's are employed now than a decade ago, and for 25- to 34-year-olds, their number has stagnated.
"The original target for full employment could probably not be achieved by 2030 but Covid will make it even harder," she said, adding that it was "imperative to commit to full employment as the top priority even if the timing changes".
Poverty rates improved significantly until 2011 but stalled thereafter, and South Africa remained the most unequal country in the world, she said, even though income inequality is slightly improved.
"The critical issue in SA is that 5% of the wealth is located in the bottom 40% of the population and that is very common globally," she said, but South Africa was a little different because of the way wealth was concentrated.
"The upper class, meaning the top 10% of the population, holds 90-95% of the wealth, as compared to 55 -60% as a global average."
She said the asset base for the middle class was very small, so the middle class was very weak.
Altman said the most important investment for redistribution and inclusion was education. "This should be our number one priority," she added.
Altman said even though South Africa had performed poorly by global standards, the country had made progress.
Education gave poor families an opportunity to become middle class, and statistics already show that the "vast majority" of secondary school graduates and students are exceeding the education levels of their parents.
"This is fantastic material to work with and a great foundation for class transformation," she said.