Labour Stats: ‘Implement a Job Seekers Exemption Certificate now’ - FMF 

‘We need urgent action to get unemployed South Africans into the job market.’ –  Eustace Davie, Director at the Free Market Foundation 

The findings from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey revealed today that the official unemployment rate has decreased marginally by 0.7%, from 32.6% in the second quarter, to 31.9% in the third quarter of 2023. 

Although these numbers show a slight improvement, the change is not convincing, as millions of South Africans are still shut out of the job market.  

‘The Free Market Foundation (FMF) therefore calls on government to implement a Job Seekers Exemption Certificate (JSEC), to allow unemployed South Africans the chance to find work and enable them to feed their families,’ says Eustace Davie, Director at the FMF.  

The FMF proposes that people who have been unemployed for six months or longer should be entitled to a JSEC, which would a) grant them exemption from all labour legislation for a period of at least two years and b) protect any employer who hires them from prosecution under the labour laws. 

Labour legislation in South Africa is the root cause of the high rates of unemployment and a complete overhaul of the legislative framework will be an essential step toward meaningful change for the better. In the short term, the JSEC provides access to jobs that are currently off the table due to onerous legislation, within the existing framework.  

Although South Africa’s labour laws are intended to protect employees by providing a high level of job security to those in employment, employers who fall short of the stringent statutory requirements are liable to face harsh penalties. In practice, unemployed South Africans are prevented from selling their services to employers that do not necessarily meet the legal requirements but that are acceptable to the job-seekers themselves.  

This means that we have a situation where job-seekers are deprived of their only means of climbing the first rung of the employment ladder.  

The result is the high rate of unemployment in South Africa, that has become the hallmark of this generation. It is the highest in the world for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). 

‘Serious action is needed to turn things around as the usual mitigating steps like social grants and make-work jobs will not fix the jobs crisis’, Davie said.  

‘We need to get people working, earning, learning skills, and supporting their families. The steps taken must offer hope of economic betterment to the millions of South Africans who are jobless and unskilled’, he continued.  

The FMF proposes the implementation of the JSEC as it would be effective, easy to implement and politically ‘saleable’. It would help those who need help – the unemployed – without affecting the currently employed. And it would result in increased economic growth that would benefit all South Africans.