The Democratic Alliance has accused President Jacob Zuma of being afraid to make tough choices that would benefit many unemployed young people.
In a reply to a DA parliamentary question, Zuma confirmed that the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) remained the stumbling block to the implementation of the youth wage subsidy, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said on Wednesday.
“The president also said government is still seeking trade union buy-in for the youth wage subsidy that would create more than 420 000 new jobs.
“This is a president who is afraid to make the tough choices that would benefit so many unemployed young people,” Mazibuko said.
Zuma, in his written reply, said discussions on the youth wage subsidy had taken place within the economic sectors and employment cluster, and consultation with social partners began at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on May 10 last year.
“Social partners continue to discuss the youth employment incentive at Nedlac. As such, final proposals have yet to be made to Cabinet,” he said.
Cabinet did not intend to abandon the policy but discussions with social partners, alongside public comments, would inform a revised document and the design of the proposed youth employment incentive.
Zuma said Cabinet would respond to the final proposals.
The government had undertaken to resolve the concerns raised by social partners, in particular organised labour, in Nedlac. This included outlining the role of the youth employment incentive as an important pillar of the economic development department’s multi-pronged strategy to confront youth unemployment and adjusting features of the proposed incentive to address the specific concerns of social partners.
Zuma said there had been a number of valid concerns raised with the youth employment incentive, including the potential displacement of older workers by younger workers, the age of those potentially qualifying for the incentive, and the duration of probation. The government’s discussions with social partners were aimed at mitigating these concerns.
The rules, design and monitoring of a youth employment incentive would be critical to actively reduce the risk of negative unintended consequences, including potential displacement and help maximise net job creation.
The government would focus on accelerating social dialogue and finding satisfactory solutions to the valid concerns that social partners had raised, Zuma said.
Mazibuko said if the subsidy had been implemented by the original deadline of April 1 2010, around 300 000 young people would have had jobs by now.
“And, contrary to the claims of Cosatu, this would not have been at the cost of existing jobs. So what is the hold-up? Why does the president need to seek further buy-in from Cosatu?” she asked.
Cabinet was not bound to wait for the Nedlac process to be concluded before implementing the subsidy.
“[Zuma’s] government introduced this policy. His finance minister budgeted R5-billion for it to be implemented. He cannot sit on the fence any longer. He is the president, [Cosatu secretary general] Zwelinzima Vavi is not,” she said.
“President Zuma must explain to the unemployed youth of South Africa why he is choosing Cosatu’s interests over theirs.”
So far, Zuma had chosen to put the politics of the tripartite alliance ahead of the interests of millions of unemployed South Africans, said Mazibuko.
“Instead of showing leadership, he has chosen votes at Mangaung. South Africa cannot wait any longer. The time for President Zuma to act in the interest of the unemployed is now,” she said. – Sapa