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More emphasis needed on keeping jobs

Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation

In spite of the various instruments which government has put in place to kick start the economy, the big challenge is still how we retain employment, as opposed to just using the temporary TERS programme, which will come to an end soon. 

Moeketsi Marumo, an associate director at Cova Advisory, says if we can keep people employed in the bad times we will be better prepared for the recovery, however slow and unsteady that might be. “Although TERS has been a relatively successful instrument through which the government has managed to preserve jobs,  other instruments, such as incentives from the department, have not been used effectively to assist with sustaining and stimulating job creation.” Here he points specifically to the Department of Trade and Industry.

This view is echoed by Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation, an employer organisation representing almost around 20 000 employers and about 380 000 employees in the automotive aftermarket sector. Olivier stresses that with so much pressure on the commercial sector right now to remain financially viable and to preserve jobs, it is time attention started to be focused on the regulatory factors which employers are struggling with. “We know that the 3rd biggest risk for businesses in 2020 is legislation and regulation and yet very little has been done to address this.

“Excessive red tape and unrealistic compliance costs in an over regulated business environment are stifling sustainability and growth, particularly in the retail automotive sector,” notes Olivier.  Across the automotive sector there exists an almost consistent view that labour-related matters are over-regulated.

He says this extends to all aspects of the business including training where once again many employers struggle to understand the many different frameworks and the red tape in our skills development system. Informal micro, small and medium employers do not receive any other additional support in addition to the R165 000 per annum given for apprentice training.  “One can understand that a smaller employer, if he has one or two employees, doesn't have the kind of support mechanisms that a corporate employer will have to train apprentices in that environment,” says Olivier.

Marumo believes that in SA we need to ensure that policy instruments such as the sector education and training authorities (Setas) and the Jobs Fund are utilised to accelerate training of youth in new areas such as the fourth industrial revolution. “The bottlenecks around these funding instruments and the time frames to access them need to be improved,” he says.

Olivier agrees stressing how important it is to also bring education and training systems closer to meeting labour market need. “This challenge, coupled with the current pandemic, the fourth industrial revolution and advancement of technologies, has led to what many are calling the 21st century skills gap. It will require a fundamental realignment of our education and training systems involving policy makers, industry, education and training institutions, trainers and students,” says Olivier.

The overall feeling from both is that we need more action from every government department in the crusade to keep people employed and our economy from collapsing and agree it is the department of trade, industry & competition  that should be leading the charge. “If jobs are to be retained, we have to find a way to reduce the cost for the employer and this goes much broader than just the wage debate only,” concludes Olivier.